Managers are a key source of power and politics in the workplace. Often without knowing it, they make office politics worse. Knowing how to deal with office politics as a manager stems this. The team works better. The company benefits.
Why Office Politics Blindside Managers
There are two main reasons office politics blindside managers as they lead their teams:
- Managers, as with others, think office politics do not exist if they do not take part.
- Managers drastically underestimate the rippling effect that their words, actions and relationships have on rest of the team.
Managers forget employees like to talk about them. They listen and watch managers closely. They compare their relationships with their managers with those that others have.
Two Strategies on How to Deal with Office Politics as a Manager
How to deal with office politics as a manager has two broad strategies. They entail managing the:
- Relationships the manager has with each employee
- Perceptions others have about the relationship
The relationship each employee has with the manager directly effects office politics. As is commonly touted, keeping performance separate from the person is important. The error occurs when the manager only talks performance.
No matter the performance, the manager needs to talk about the person’s intrinsic values and talents. For example:
- “You did well with this project. Your work ethic and talent for data pulled us through.”
- “The results was below what we need. I know though that work ethic and talent for data can get us to where we need to be.”
Context and time influence employees’ perceptions about the relationships managers have with other employees. A 30-minute discussion during the day at work sends a different public message than the same discussion over an hour lunch at an eatery. Managers must remember that employees are always watching.
Protecting Team from Office Politics
Totally removing office politics is not real. Knowing how to deal with office politics as a manager protects the team. That means reinforcing the person and managing perceptions of relationships.
This also means accepting that managers can make office politics worse without knowing it. Giving better context and more time to those we like is human nature. Unmanaged though, it fuels office politics.