Workplace politics: what can you do about it?

Published on March 1, 2018 by Fiona Sanderson

Workplace politics: what can you do about it?

Are you working in an environment riddled with difficult workplace politics? Power struggles and people stepping on each other's toes to get ahead can create a highly toxic work environment. This is definitely something worth tackling, but there are ways to do this without creating further unnecessary conflict.

Types of workplace politics

The phrase 'workplace politics' can summon images of cutthroat, underhanded working cultures, but this isn't always the case. Ronald E. Riggio, in his book Introduction to Industrial/Organisational Psychology, places workplace politics into two categories: functional politics and dysfunctional politics.

According to Riggio, functional politics involves “behaviours that assist the organisation in attaining its goals”. Dysfunctional politics involves “behaviours that inhibit the attainment of organisational goals.” So really, when we say we want to avoid workplace politics, it's the dysfunctional side that matters.

How to address dysfunctional workplace politics

Dysfunctional politics can create the toxic work environment previously described. Employees who practice dysfunctional politics often make others desire to leave the organisation. Implement these 5 tips to deal with dysfunctional workplace politics.

1. Create a staff welfare committee

Staff welfare is sometimes overlooked by organisations. Company leaders tend to be so laser-focused on getting employees to deliver results that they neglect the human element of each employee. Does this sound familiar?

Step up to the plate by creating a Staff Welfare Committee. This committee would be responsible for hosting fun staff events and providing support to staff members experiencing personal difficulties.

Other features can be added based on your organisation’s unique needs. The aim is to cultivate an environment where all employees feel comfortable.

Related post: Managing diversity in the workplace

2. Don’t be disheartened by workplace politics

It’s evident that you’re having challenges with your organisation. Going to work has even become a chore. Try and find ways to be part of the solution instead of the problem.

Think about possible solutions to the organisation’s problems. How can the problems be tackled so that the company can improve? When you’ve created some truly workable solutions, request a meeting with your colleagues/employees to discuss them. Collaboration will help bring forward positive change.

3. Encourage transparency and open communication

This tip particularly applies if you’re at the managerial level in the organisation. Your team must be able to trust you. Therefore, opportunities must be created for all employees to be clear about what’s happening in the organisation and the goals and objectives that need to be met.

Nepotism should also be non-existent. Criteria and opportunities for promotion must be clear and accessible to all qualified persons. Everyone in the organisation should have equal opportunities. Equal opportunities make looking for unscrupulous ways to get ahead nonsensical.

4. Take responsibility for your own behaviour

There is a popular quote that says, “When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.” You may not be able to truly effect change in your organisation or bring everyone on board. However, you can take the necessary steps to focus on producing the best results without letting other people affect you.

Prove your worth. Let your work speak for itself. You may not feel that you are getting the recognition you deserve, but that recognition will come when you consistently produce stellar results.

5. Avoid co-workers who relish dissonance

The people with whom you interact affect your work environment. People who love conversations that focus on tearing other coworkers down shouldn’t be in your space. Surround yourself with positive, ambitious people who want to make a meaningful contribution to the organisation.

If you work for a smaller business or with an immediate team where dysfunction is rife, focus on your own goals, as well as strengthening healthy relationships outside of work. This will help you rise above the toxicity in your workplace - or, in a worst case scenario, to find a workplace with a more positive and collaborative culture.

Dysfunctional workplace politics can tear an organisation apart. The choice to be a part of the problem or the solution is yours. Use the tips outlined in this article to truly make a difference at work.

If you would like to find out how HR software can help you manage people and policies in the workplace, request a screenshare demonstration of our HR software.

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Written by Fiona Sanderson

Fiona is Marketing Manager at myhrtoolkit. Her areas of expertise include HR systems, productivity, employment law updates, and creating HR infographics.

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