Workplace Politics and the Dangers of Infighting
One of the ways to quickly disengage workers is to allow infighting to become a real issue of “us vs. them.” We know from our annual engagement research that workplace politics creates employee disengagement regardless of industry, geography, tenure or title. Engaged workforces have smoothly running teams where disagreements can be handled constructively.
Differences in the Workplace Are Inevitable
Whenever you have more than one employee, there are bound to be different points of view on what work needs to be done, how it should be accomplished and who is accountable. But it is a leader’s responsibility to see that there is a strong enough foundation of trust that different perspectives are aired and dealt with in a way that benefits team strength and resilience.
How to Achieve the Ideal
Because workplace politics creates employee disengagement, here is some field-tested advice on how to deal with uncomfortable disagreements:
1. Establish Open Communication as a Value
Expect your employees to treat each other with respect. This includes giving each one an opportunity to express their views without repercussion. Invite questions at team meetings. Listen to and consider suggestions for improvement. Allow constructive debate.
Do not tolerate interruptions, put-downs, gossip, name-calling or any other rude behavior. Hold yourself and your team accountable for openly and respectfully communicating with one another.
2. Don’t Let Disagreements Fester
On the best of teams there will be differences; you can’t assume they will always be solved on their own. Unresolved, most disagreements will only fester into bigger issues that involve people taking sides. Address the differences as soon as they arise.
Do not ignore negative side comments or a discussion that threatens to become heated.
3. Sidetrack Arguments
If an issue threatens to derail an otherwise productive meeting, table it. Then schedule a meeting with the combatants so that you avoid an unnecessary and public airing of the problem. Set up rules of “engagement” whereby each will have their say but insist that they stick to the facts.
Then look for points of commonality and agreement. If the issue cannot be resolved, they must agree to disagree and you, as team leader, have the final vote on how to proceed.
4. Try to Uncover Motives
If you have an employee who always seems to stir up trouble, offend others, or regularly bucks the system, schedule time to explore the cause. Are they simply unable to work well with others? Then they may be in the wrong role. Or is there something behind their actions? Your understanding of what is going on behind the scenes may be all that’s needed.
The Bottom Line
A disengaged team is an unproductive team. Workplace politics creates employee disengagement…but not at your workplace. Keep your workplace as free from office politics and destructive relationships as possible. The antidote to the kind of atmosphere that fosters dissent is trust combined with open, respectful communication.
To learn more about workplace politics, download Workplace Politics Strategies to Effectively Influence Others
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