I have a set weekly coffee date with some colleagues; two who work full-time and one works part-time and me, a consultant who works piecemeal and interim. I was preparing for this article and so I asked them what was the hot topic at their office. Each of them replied that office politics and people not doing their own work but complaining about others was the main topic of concern. I replied that the benefit of working as a consultant was limited office politics as I am an outsider looking in. Consultants aren’t involved in office politics and their role can be to stand on the edge of the organization, look at the issues and clarify the needed fix or fixes. Their question was how to reduce or eliminate office politics in their workplaces.
Simply put, office politics are strategies used to gain power or advantage over another. Some people revile in office politics and others think it is simply vile, but it is a fact of life in any organization and the issue is growing. Roffey Park's "Management Agenda" survey found that organizational politics ranked bottom by managers in a list of demotivators in 1998, while today it has risen above the issues of increased workload and management style to be the highest causes of stress. Additionally, the survey of almost 500 managers revealed that conflict in the workplace has also increased, with four out of ten (44 per cent) believing that office politics are the main cause of this increase.
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