Dr Renate Volpe, in her Political Intelligence (PQ) Nuggets says “Unhealthy Politics: Reduce Performance, Stifle innovation and learning, Increase labour turnover, Decrease motivation, Distort communication, Decrease morale and Undermine effective decision making.”
One of the first things that I learnt when I joined the Corporate world was that there was politics. Politics from the top to the bottom. Within the directors of the company – one siding against the other, within senior management – directors playing one manager against the other, middle management – staff playing one supervisor against the other and even right at the bottom of the food chain where employees vie for attention. Everyone grappling for what they perceive as a ‘piece of the pie’! Crazy, scary stuff!
Often the staff, in a particular department would stop working, not because they were on strike, and not because they didn’t have anything to do, but usually because they were watching the managers as they ‘strutted’ their stuff in front of their superiors. They watched the ‘posing’ and brownie point posturing. The body language insults and often even the verbal challenges that their managers made to each other as they ‘threw down the gauntlet’ in an effort to get noticed, by what they perceived, were the people who held their careers in the palms of their hands.
I watched, as many of the Managers struggled with keeping their thoughts to themselves, at meetings where we brainstormed for ideas for special projects. Their eyes telling the story of how much they wanted to join in but didn’t for fear that their ‘chosen’ guru or the person that they thought that they had formed an alliance with, might think less of them or who had already put an idea forward.
I watched as a steady stream of talented, skilled individuals headed for the door and left the company. People who should have been nurtured and who really could have made an enormous difference in the company but who would rather leave than take on the office politics.
What I also learnt though was that it was possible to separate myself from the political animals around the office water-cooler. I made sure that I did not participate and thankfully due to the nature of my position I was able to keep my distance when the ‘ugly’ side of politics raised its nasty head.
So, if you are going to allow the political animal into your working environment (and it’s not always a bad idea) make sure that it is of the good kind and that you keep it healthy and working for the good of the company.