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How to Nix the Politics and Create an Ace Management Team

Use these ways to increase employee engagement to build leadership

Office politics. No one likes them. You might enjoy watching House of Cards or Game of Thrones, with the political backbiting and ‘behind-closed-doors’ deals, but do you really want to play the political game every hour of every working day?

Leading a team in which there is a lack of trust, absence of cohesion, and deficit of accountability is sapping work, both mentally and physically. Office politics creates a dysfunctional team, as Patrick Lencioni described in his powerful book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.

The disturbing truth about office politics and employee engagement

Office politics destroys employee engagement. Instead of working as part of a team, all pulling in the same direction, individuals jockey for personal gain. Results suffer. Morale falls. Good employees leave. Study after study and survey after survey have found that office politics pummel productivity and serves to disengage employees from their work, their colleagues, and their company. For example:

  • When they were asked how their organization could engage them better, 39% said reducing office politics would help (Kronos)
  • 39% of millennials said that office politics causes them to lose interest at work – second only to excessive workload, with 40% (HBR survey)
  • A third of workers say that it is office politics that makes them unhappy at work (HR Review, UK)

And when more than half of your employees believe that playing office politics rather than doing good work is the route to promotion (Bridge), you know that there is a serious problem in your organization. How much more productive could your team be, and how much more profitable could you be?

Boost employee engagement by eliminating office politics top down

When searching for ways to increase employee engagement, eliminating office politics should be high on your list of priorities – if not top of it. And the top is where you should start. Without a cohesive leadership team, who are fully engaged in their work and achieving team goals rather than office politics, how can you expect your employees to do likewise?

5 symptoms of out-of-control office politics

Lencioni’s five dysfunctions perfectly describe the symptoms caused by office politics:

  1. Absence of trust, with team members reluctant to admit mistakes and weaknesses, and unwilling to ask for help.
  2. Fear of conflict, with healthy opinion discussions replaced by posturing, which leads to poor business decisions.
  3. Lack of commitment, which creates an ambiguous environment with no clearly defined direction.
  4. Avoidance of team accountability, with team members unwilling to challenge their peers for their actions and leading to poor discipline with the leader isolated as sole judge and jury.
  5. Lack of attention to team objectives, with team members only concerned about their own development rather than achieving collective goals. Ultimately, the organization is the one that suffers.

5 ways to increase employee engagement from the top down

Given that your employees are led by example, it is imperative that you create a leadership team devoid of office politics. Here are five ways to increase employee engagement from the top down, and create an ace management team that leads from the front.

1.     Set the standard for others to follow

Playing office politics should not be seen as an attribute required to lead. Be an example of the open, honest culture that denies office politics as a worthy attribute.

2.     Confront office politics

If you suspect office politics are being played (for example, gossiping at the watercooler), tackle the parties involved directly. Leave them in no doubt that such actions are neither needed nor wanted. If you are not certain about how to address a difficult breakdown in communication, read our article “Carefronting vs. confronting”.

3.     Increase your emotional intelligence to understand the cause of office politics

People play office politics for two main reasons: greed (the desire for power or reward), and fear (of losing job or position). Leaders with high emotional intelligence will have the communication tools to understand what it is that drives each individual to behave in ways that may otherwise be out of character. With this understanding, you will be better able to provide individualised solutions and coach them to a less political way of behaving, as mutual trust grows.

(Read our article “7 Leadership behaviours to inspire employee engagement” for more trust building tips.)

4.     Communicate openly and transparently

Don’t provide the fuel that enables backstabbing and gossipmongering to thrive. If your organizational culture promotes open and honest communication, there will be no room for games of ‘he said, she said’. Be an effective leader by enabling people to come to you directly with their issues, rather than rallying others to their cause.

5.     Focus on collective goals and reward the right people

Ensure that your team knows the collective goals, and their collective responsibility to achieving them. Communicate these goals regularly and ensure that group focus remains on them, and their individual inputs to the collective based upon each person’s strengths.

Then, recognise contributions made, and reward the efforts and results objectively. This includes providing direction to those underperforming, so that the potential of all can be achieved.

Summing up

If you leave office politics unchecked, they can lead to many negative consequences for your employees, teams, and business. To eliminate office politics from your organization, you must create a management team that leads by example and is devoid of political behavior.

Is your management team engaged? Does it exhibit the qualities and character traits that will shape how your organization acts and performs? Employee engagement begins at the top. Contact Forward Focus today to discuss how our Management Development Series, including our Energy Leadership Program, can help your leaders gel into an ace management team.

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