Politics, to paraphrase a famous saying, is the last refuge of scoundrels. In many organizations, it’s the main business or chief occupation of some staffers. Even as we mouth axioms on management skills, we indulge in unhealthy politics at work. This obviously diverts us from our work, resulting in mediocre performances while sowing seeds of discontent and suspicion within the organization.
For those who have neither the inclination to join the politicking staffers nor the temperament to beat them, the alternative would be to keep well away from them. However, it is virtually impossible to remain and aloof if one is directly or indirectly affected by office politics. Sometimes, for sheer survival, employees resort to ganging up and creating factions which, though born out of self-defense, can be very harmful to the organization in the long run.
Like so many other ills, this tendency to politicize the office atmosphere often starts from the top. The powers-that-be feel more secure if they can drive a wedge between colleagues – a variation of the divide and rule policy. They openly flaunt their preference for particular persons or departments. These people, secure in the approval of their boss, turn the political wheel further by exploiting their favored position. Convinced that they have the blessings of the ‘higher-ups’ they start dictating terms and demanding a recognition of their clout.
This naturally results in the formation of the opposition camp comprising the resentful ‘neglected’ colleagues. These groups which are left out in cold then tends do find a modicum of comfort in clustering together turn smug and self-satisfied, relax their professional efforts and busy themselves feathering their nest.
There are turncoats in every sphere of political activity and it is no different in a work environment. Such people can easily be ‘bought’ over by the ruling camp. Seemingly in the opposite camp: these people carry all the ‘inside’ information to the ruling one, obviously in return for certain favors or benefits. They are usually very smooth in their operation and because they are not always easily identifiable, tend to be very dangerous.
The trouble monger is one who wins your confidence and then cashes in on it by threatening to spill the beans. He or she also instigates trouble between colleagues – “How come you haven’t got a raise when X is doing less than you and has been given an increment?” or “How come you weren’t invited for the boss’s party when your junior was?” These snide remarks are designed to create a rift, make the victim feel insecure and unappreciated and result in demoralizing and demotivating what might have been a sincere and hard-working staffer.The only way to mitigate the damaging effects of such politicking is by each worker developing the self-discipline to mind his or her own business. There must also to peer group loyalty in the best sense, and a commitment which results in a healthy team spirit and a feeling of unity within the organization. Potential troublemakers should be firmly put in their place.
Every employee of an office is there to build the organization: to keep it functioning smoothly. An organization which escapes the internally destructive and weakening effects of bickering and politicking can only prosper and grow. And that, of course, is in the ultimate interest of the employees themselves. So, instead of wasting time and energy on activities which only retard progress and affect the quality of work why not join hands to make the office machinery run smoothly? Develop the maturity and judgment to see through people who are there only to brew ill feeling. Cultivate a broader outlook and regard each colleague as an ally with a common purpose rather than as a rival. Let politics remain the prerogative of scoundrels – and not of professionals!