HR & Management

Office politics: Avoid a toxic workplace culture

5 min read

14 October 2016

It’s no secret that politics can make or break an organisation, and while the politics surrounding the Labour party continue to capture the nation’s attention, research from CV-Library reveals the dangers of an altogether different type of politics; office politics – and how it affects workplace culture.

With a third of workers admitting that office politics would cause them to leave a company and work elsewhere, and a further 68.9 per cent revealing gossip was their pet workplace hate, there’s no doubt that building an open and healthy workplace culture is key.

For many organisations, the politics creep in slowly, which means they often go unnoticed… until it’s too late. Once workplace culture has been impacted it can be difficult to undo the damage; that’s why it’s crucial to promote an open and healthy office environment from the beginning. Below, I’ve put together some of the most important tips to remember when growing your business, to ensure that everyone is happy and that you’re getting the most out of your workforce.

Address any workplace culture issues

When you’re a business owner, it can be difficult to be tuned into what’s happening on the ground 100 per cent of the time and if there are any issues brewing beneath the surface, it can be easy to miss them. Whether you take a hands-on or strategic approach, it’s important that your staff know you are approachable and genuinely interested in their welfare.

So checking in with your teams and addressing any issues that might arise is key; office politics have a tendency to snowball, so it’s paramount that you catch any problems from the get-go. However, if you’re heading up a fairly new business, or you’re experiencing a period of rapid growth, there are bound to be a few hiccups – so keeping an eye out and determining whether the issue will settle down over time, or whether it’s a much bigger problem is key. By showing an interest, and dealing with any morale issues or workplace tension, you’ll find that staff are positive and feel comfortable at work.

Focus on cultural fit

One of the most effective ways to avoid office politics is to make sure that you’re hiring the right people from the start. While it’s essential that you hire people with the most relevant skills and experience, it’s vital that you spend some time focusing on the cultural fit too.

It’s important to consider the existing dynamics within your company, particularly if the team is still small; each new hire has to be a good cultural fit, otherwise you may end up with a disjointed working environment, where staff feel uncomfortable and gossip is rife. Think about how each new hire will work within your existing culture, and endeavour to bring on board employees who are a good fit both professionally and personally.

Encourage workplace friendships

It’s no secret that office politics often stem from fear, distrust and uncertainty, so it’s important you encourage team building and friendships within the workplace. Employees who genuinely care for each other on a personal level are more likely to work better together, ultimately cutting down on the gossip and politics. Taking steps to encourage socialising and bonding is key, whether this is by organising company-wide lunches or getting people together at the local pub on a Friday after work.

Though there is a fine line between personal and professional relationships that should be respected, it’s important that your business has a fun and friendly culture, as this will often be a key selling point for new recruits, as well as crucial for retaining your existing staff.

Office politics are notoriously difficult to navigate, and once they’re embedded into your company culture, they’re almost impossible to eliminate; so it’s best to put measures in place to help you avoid them altogether. By promoting an honest and open culture, where you’re tuned into the workplace and your staff know that they can come to you, you should find that the rumour mill stays quiet, and your employees are working in harmony.

Lee Biggins is of CV-Library.

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