Leaders work with peers, report to bosses and lead teams as part of their daily work routine. This network of inter dependent relationships, sources of power as a result of organization structure and authority frameworks, personality types, organization values and performance expectations often combine to create organizational politics, which if not managed will result in performance inhibiting work environments and demotivated people.
Leaders And Organizational Politics
Organizational politics is found in all organizations and it can be positive or negative. When the politics helps move the organization in the right direction and speeds up the implementation of strategic initiatives it adds value. However when organizational politics creates division, encourages power struggles and promotes internal conflicts requiring higher level of management involvement it saps an organization of energy and effort that may be used toward more productive work.
As a leader there are many actions that can be taken to reduce the negative aspects of organizational politics. Some of these actions include:
- Define core values such as cross functional teamwork, trust and honesty and most important modelling these values.
- Engage in discussions that focus on data and facts.
- Focus on the problem or issue and not the person.
- Ask questions that encourage employees to seek to truly understand the other person or teams perspective.
- Raise contentious issues for open discussion.
- Reinforce the need and establishing the practice of getting people to work horizontally solving problems and resolving conflict without having to escalate to higher levels.
- Build a culture where there is open communication across multiple levels.
- Provide training on effective conflict resolutions and effective interpersonal communication.
- Avoid engaging in personal attacks and gossip.
When working with a large number of people the reality is that there are some that we will get along better with and those that we do not really like. Just as each of us is not able to please every one what we hope is that they take the time to understand what we are concerned about and / or trying to achieve. Thus as the saying goes “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, we need to establish a genuine respect for others, recognizing their worth as a person and individual. This may be difficult at a start and require significant effort and constant self reminding, however with practice just like the way we learnt to walk or talk or play the guitar it will over time become easier and improve our personal effectiveness. Genuine respect implies the need to listen with the intent of understanding the other person’s point of view and seeking to empathize with their situation. We need to keep in check our personal bias and negative perceptions. Before going into discussions it is useful to remind ourselves by visualizing what a win discussion will look like and then going in with that goal in mind.
Many of the problems that organization’s face in relation to strategy design and execution can be avoided if organizational politics are effectively managed. Books have been written on various positioning strategies and manipulation techniques that may be used, however at a fundamental level negative organizational politics can be minimized if leaders put more effort and thought into how People are treated, Information is communication people with the right values and behaviours are put into roles of leadership and influence and Decisions are taken and problems / conflicts solved.