Office Politics vs Performance

Picture this scenario: a group leaves the boardroom, dispersing into twos and threes towards their respective offices. The HR director and Communications Director are complaining about the Finance Director and how he wants to measure everything. “How can we measure happiness?” says one. The sales director goes to meet with his sales manager. “Marketing doesn’t have a clue what we really need. I keep asking for more leads but all she is concerned about is our branding, she says getting leads is our job!” he says with frustration.

Office Politics


Meanwhile, the managing director is having lunch with another business owner. “I don’t get it, we have meeting after meeting. They seem to get along yet if anything, performance is worse than six months ago?” She replies, “Are they actually focused on how they can help each other be more effective?” This stops him dead in his tracks because he knows that even though his team are among the best in their fields individually, they’re each more concerned about their own area, then the company as a whole.

Does this sound familiar? How many times have you experienced political infighting whether overt or incredibly subtle? It is like a cancer spreading through an organisation. Cropping up in all sorts of ways and motivating decisions that gradually push up operating costs and will ultimately reduce revenue too as customers feel its effects.

How can you prevent this taking hold, or eliminate it if it’s already taken root? The key is not just in having conversations; it’s in the quality of these conversations and if you want to have great quality dialogue, ask great questions! Start off with some discussions with your team members, individually or as a group, and then as you get results and become more confident take it to other teams within your organisation and even to your external stakeholders. Here are some suggestions of questions to get started:

  • How can I help you be more effective?
  • In which ways do I help the team most?
  • In which ways do I help the team least and what could I do/not do instead?
  • Ask yourself, “How much do I trust each individual within the team to deliver?”
  • What needs to happen to improve your trust in others if this score is low?
  • Ask yourself, “How much do I believe each individual within the team trusts me to deliver?”
  • What needs to happen to improve your others’ trust in you if this score is low? If you don’t know, ask them.
  • How do I add value to the company?
  • How do I help you to add value to the company?

Think about it. If people were constantly focused on how to help each other be more effective, how much complaining are they likely to do? How much time are they likely to spend talking behind each other’s backs when there is a forum and means for this kind of open dialogue? Organisational negative politics is like hope; it is not a course of action.

You and your team will answer questions that you probably have never been asked before. The true dialogue that this exercise creates can bring about changes in attitude, engagement and performance that thousands spent on trust exercises and teambuilding often fails to deliver. These conversations generate effective actions. This kind of dialogue is what turns soft skills into hard skills that show a genuine financial return.

Would you like to get a glimpse of what this feels like? Simply book meetings with your team this week, listen and take on board what people tell you and be honest with them too. Work together to come up with the actions that will make a difference and watch the results unfold…

Please comment or email me directly, to let me know how you get on, or if you would like to receive more information about this.

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