Office politics getting in the way? Here is how to stop it cold


The 2016 G20 summit proved that even the world’s top names in politics aren’t immune from posturing and power plays. How can HR spot and stop petty office politics from becoming something more troublesome?

If you’re having a bad week at work, spare a thought for US President Barack Obama. On Monday, he appeared to be snubbed by the Chinese after arriving in Beijing without a typical red-carpet welcome, or even a staircase to get him off the plane. He had to exit through the rear end of Air Force One instead.

Then on Monday, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who he was due to meet, calls him “the son of a whore” after it was suggested that the US might raise the extrajudicial murders in the country’s brutal drug wars. Obama subsequently cancelled their scheduled meeting.

This kind of power play is acted out in workplaces all over the planet. Office politics isn’t something you can legislate against, nor is it is easy to expose. It’s often a covert and underhanded activity of the kind Obama experienced on the tarmac in China.

Human resources professionals must exercise great skill in negotiating these fraught relationships. Ignoring office politics potentially undermines the culture of an organisation.

Karen Gately, human resources consultant and author of The People Manager’s Toolkit, says it’s important for HR to take the lead here and be seen as impartial and transparent.

“HR has a responsibility, as the ethical touchstone of an organisation, to not only model good behaviour, but set out clear expectations around the culture that truly enables good collaboration,” she says.

If people aren’t being real or open or working to a shared outcome, then collaboration is undermined.

“Certainly, there is a role for HR to play in directly challenging behaviours. Sometimes, it’s a coaching role, getting people to recognise their behaviours and showing them that it might be better to adopt a different approach,” Gately says.

But human resources isn’t there to do a leader’s job for them, she emphasises.

“HR is there to inspire and help them manage their teams – coaching the senior people in an organisation to lead by example. To do that, you must start from a place of clarity, defining and modelling what non-political behaviour looks like.”

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Jeanette Hatt
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Jeanette Hatt

This is a great article and demonstrates that no one is beyond or immune to abuse of bullies and unethical people who basically don’t care what they say and to whom. HR need to continue to keep the foot to the metal. We are challenged with everchanging individual’s values that are brought into the workplace that we say need to be molded into our Codes of Conduct. I think the challenge is to be mindful of the changing landscape and continue to drive positive cultures where acceptance of this behavior is just not on.

Phil McDonald
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Phil McDonald

I agree with the thrust of the article, that HR needs to respond to negative politics in business, and that failing to do so may be quite destructive. But I also put the view that not all office politics is negative. If, for example, I lobby my position with key managers, in relation to a matter that I consider is important for the business, ahead of a decision-making meeting, I consider I have acted politically, but in the company’s interest.

The trick then is not to squash internal politics, but to harness it.

Bernie Crawford
Guest
Bernie Crawford

Politics, negotiation, discipline, competition etc. will be features of our organisations for ever. The issue is the spirit in which they are carried out. HR practitioners could promote a positive mindset that focuses on building human spirit, rather than just reacting to abuses. If an organisation enshrines the building up of people in its culture, there will be no place for practices that tear people down and less need for anti-abusive protocols. Have a look at how the Spirited Organization Society addresses this issue.

Sonia King
Guest
Sonia King

Yes, I agree with the comments above and the thrust of the article by Amanda. The issues are quite often tricky to navigate in organisations especially of larger sizes. It is even trickier when some of the “posturing” being conducted is by the parties that you, as a Human Resources professional, report to or answer to. I have experienced a Managing Director who would on a few occasions suggest to senior members of the team to come to him rather than me with HR issues. There was no particular reason provided to the senior team. The interesting thing in this… Read more »

More on HRM

Office politics getting in the way? Here is how to stop it cold


The 2016 G20 summit proved that even the world’s top names in politics aren’t immune from posturing and power plays. How can HR spot and stop petty office politics from becoming something more troublesome?

If you’re having a bad week at work, spare a thought for US President Barack Obama. On Monday, he appeared to be snubbed by the Chinese after arriving in Beijing without a typical red-carpet welcome, or even a staircase to get him off the plane. He had to exit through the rear end of Air Force One instead.

Then on Monday, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who he was due to meet, calls him “the son of a whore” after it was suggested that the US might raise the extrajudicial murders in the country’s brutal drug wars. Obama subsequently cancelled their scheduled meeting.

This kind of power play is acted out in workplaces all over the planet. Office politics isn’t something you can legislate against, nor is it is easy to expose. It’s often a covert and underhanded activity of the kind Obama experienced on the tarmac in China.

Human resources professionals must exercise great skill in negotiating these fraught relationships. Ignoring office politics potentially undermines the culture of an organisation.

Karen Gately, human resources consultant and author of The People Manager’s Toolkit, says it’s important for HR to take the lead here and be seen as impartial and transparent.

“HR has a responsibility, as the ethical touchstone of an organisation, to not only model good behaviour, but set out clear expectations around the culture that truly enables good collaboration,” she says.

If people aren’t being real or open or working to a shared outcome, then collaboration is undermined.

“Certainly, there is a role for HR to play in directly challenging behaviours. Sometimes, it’s a coaching role, getting people to recognise their behaviours and showing them that it might be better to adopt a different approach,” Gately says.

But human resources isn’t there to do a leader’s job for them, she emphasises.

“HR is there to inspire and help them manage their teams – coaching the senior people in an organisation to lead by example. To do that, you must start from a place of clarity, defining and modelling what non-political behaviour looks like.”

7
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Jeanette Hatt
Guest
Jeanette Hatt

This is a great article and demonstrates that no one is beyond or immune to abuse of bullies and unethical people who basically don’t care what they say and to whom. HR need to continue to keep the foot to the metal. We are challenged with everchanging individual’s values that are brought into the workplace that we say need to be molded into our Codes of Conduct. I think the challenge is to be mindful of the changing landscape and continue to drive positive cultures where acceptance of this behavior is just not on.

Phil McDonald
Guest
Phil McDonald

I agree with the thrust of the article, that HR needs to respond to negative politics in business, and that failing to do so may be quite destructive. But I also put the view that not all office politics is negative. If, for example, I lobby my position with key managers, in relation to a matter that I consider is important for the business, ahead of a decision-making meeting, I consider I have acted politically, but in the company’s interest.

The trick then is not to squash internal politics, but to harness it.

Bernie Crawford
Guest
Bernie Crawford

Politics, negotiation, discipline, competition etc. will be features of our organisations for ever. The issue is the spirit in which they are carried out. HR practitioners could promote a positive mindset that focuses on building human spirit, rather than just reacting to abuses. If an organisation enshrines the building up of people in its culture, there will be no place for practices that tear people down and less need for anti-abusive protocols. Have a look at how the Spirited Organization Society addresses this issue.

Sonia King
Guest
Sonia King

Yes, I agree with the comments above and the thrust of the article by Amanda. The issues are quite often tricky to navigate in organisations especially of larger sizes. It is even trickier when some of the “posturing” being conducted is by the parties that you, as a Human Resources professional, report to or answer to. I have experienced a Managing Director who would on a few occasions suggest to senior members of the team to come to him rather than me with HR issues. There was no particular reason provided to the senior team. The interesting thing in this… Read more »

More on HRM