The Destructive Nature of Office Politics

January 29, 2013

When you work in a group long enough, you’re going to run into it. Politics can become an inherent part of some cultures, integrated so deeply that the politics are impossible to set aside, even for the sake of getting necessary work done. When left untended, politics can choke your organization.

Some symptoms of office politics to watch out for:

  • Coworkers who feel free to talk about each other, but unable to confront issues face-to-face.
  • Certain individuals get left out of meetings, even though they should be included based on their role.
  • People are fighting for the credit and recognition, taking it away from the real source of the hard work.
  • Innovation is discouraged unless it is the leader’s or manager’s idea.
  • Employees subvert the leader’s position by resisting necessary organizational change.

Any of these are potentially corrosive to your work environment. When you have them in spades, beware: you could run into problems that lead to loss of productivity, reduced creativity, and you could even see valuable staff leave simply because of the political culture.


“Job Dissatisfaction” consistently gets listed as one of the top reasons people leave a place of work. “Dissatisfaction” is a loose term describing a number of workplace issues, but included in this term is an unhealthy, caustic work environment.

Nipping the politics in the bud can reduce turnover and cement your team for the long haul. It’s wise to change course before this happens.

Be on the lookout for the seeds of unhealthy politics.

Implementing cultural change is difficult and, like most things, it needs to start with the leaders. It’s much more realistic to expect that cultural change will follow a leader who is willing to first and foremost set an example:

  • Don’t gossip
  • Confront the source of disinformation
  • Eliminate passive-aggressive interaction
  • Don’t play favorites
  • Invite the innovation and ideas of the team
  • Give credit to others, and reward performance 

Through leading by example, you’ll set a standard that is much easier to follow. Look at the list above – wouldn’t you follow a leader who upheld those values?

The people in your organization will, too.