Office politics is never a good thing, especially in the sales environment. It creates invisible barriers to doing business internally. Individuals work to personal agendas to advance careers rather than for the good of the team. It harms morale, causes conflict between colleagues, and, ultimately, is bad for sales numbers.
When discussing organizational culture in the workplace, office politics is top of the list of disruptive behaviors. Yet it is also the one which most leaders and managers struggle most with; probably because they inadvertently cause it in the first place.
The leader’s role in creating a culture of office politics
Even the least political of leaders can create an atmosphere conducive to office politics. If you give someone a raise because they ask rather than because it is merited, you set a precedent that may be expected by others. Instead of performing well to get a raise, others will start playing political games to get on side with you. The resulting competition for favor is unhealthy.
Forms of office politics
Office politics manifests itself in many forms, such as:
- Workplace conflict, between two or more colleagues, teams, or departments. The leader will need to understand the difference between care-fronting and confronting to address a difficult breakdown in communication.
- Mentorship that results in influence over the behaviors of others and (directly or indirectly) over decision-making.
- Hermit-like behavior, with individuals and teams disengaging from others until their battle is won.
- Resistance to change, with personal agendas replacing team goals as primary motivators. This requires you to spend valuable time and effort, employing the seven strategies to overcome resistance to change first to move forward.
- Opportunistic behaviors, with individuals taking advantage of mishaps and errors by others to promote their own self-worth to the company at the expense of others (e.g. backstabbing).
Left unchecked, these disruptive behaviors quickly become ingrained as acceptable organizational culture in the workplace. New hires are introduced to this by whisperings of “If you want to get ahead…”.
Leaderships tactics to eliminate office politics
You don’t like office politics. You want to eliminate it. The question is, how? Here are three things you should be doing:
1. Hire the right people
Salespeople are competitive. They are ambitious. Two great qualities when channeled correctly. Consider what type of competitiveness you seek, and what ambitious qualities are inherent in team players. Devise interview questions and techniques to distinguish these desired character traits.
2. Stick to processes that negate political behavior
Design your workplace policies and processes to negate political behavior. For example:
- Performance review and remuneration policies
- Organizational hierarchy and geographical/customer territory
- Career advancement and promotions
Make the processes transparent, and the measurement of progress objective
3. Handle internal complaints constructively
Make it a policy never to take sides when complaints are made by one member of staff against another. Complaints may be made about behavior or performance, but generally indicate that there is a problem with either one or both employees. You’ll need to remain impartial, assess the situation carefully, and take corrective action if needed.
In the case of behavioral issues, you should seek to resolve the conflict with both parties.
In the case of performance issues, you should seek clarification (perhaps through assessment), and address shortcomings as needed with coaching or training. If no improvement is made, then you may need to let the employee go. If you find that the complaint is without foundation, then you will need to uncover why the complaint was made in the first place – there will be a deeper reason that could ultimately be more destructive to your sales team.
8 steps to dismantling team politics
It is not unusual for teams to be politically motivated against each other. This is, perhaps, the most destructive of all office politics.
We’ve consulted with organizations whose workplace culture has degenerated to positions where teams actively set out to cause others distress. Salespeople promise the undeliverable. Engineers obstruct solution discovery. Customer services renege on SLAs. Here is an exercise that dismantles such team politicking:
- Get all parties in a single room.
- Ask them to state issues that are stopping them from working together.
- Write these issues in red, on a flip chart, and pin to one side of the room.
- Ask them to name the things that would make them work better.
- Write these items in blue, on a flip chart, and pin to the other side of the room.
- Ask everyone if they are ready to embrace the items that would make them work together better – the answer will be yes.
- Now, ask them why they allowed the red situation to happen, and how they propose to move to the blue.
- What follows is an energetic and enthusiastic conversation, leading to the self-discovery of political behavior and a new design of workplace culture without the politics.
At the heart of office politics, you will find ego. As a sales leader, it is your job to provide the cultural lead that replaces individual ego with team spirit.
Contact us today, and discover how we could help salespeople understand their own reactions, and how to embed the behaviors needed to boost sales as you manage internal stakeholders and eliminate egotistical office politics.