Office politics exist in almost all businesses.
People are human beings with a tendency to look out for themselves first and foremost. And inevitably this means conflict and power dynamics will arise, even among those with the best of intentions.
Having said this, office politics is a value destroyer that cannot be tolerated because it’s the best functioning teams, not individuals, that deliver optimum results.
The Leader Sets the Tone
In these situations, the leader sets the tone that drives a culture of team before individual.
I came out of a company that had a strong leader for eight years. He simply did not allow office or corporate politics. It was always about the results the team could achieve by working together. God help you if he thought you were putting your own interests above the company.
He left and a weaker leader took his place. It was an every person for himself/herself scenario, and total chaos ensued. Over the course of several years, the company stopped growing and declined in both revenue and profit.
Coincidence, market conditions, or bad luck? Maybe some of each.
I truly believe the biggest reason for the decline was the change from a team driven, results oriented culture to one of a “me first” mentality. The stock price dropped from its high by 50% and remains down 40% from when the strong CEO left almost ten years ago.
It’s worth taking a deep look at how this happened and what could have been done to attenuate the decline and reinvigorate growth.
The Answer Is People
The answer, I believe, is most always people.
Perhaps the wrong CEO was hired because he was not strong enough to prevent it.
Perhaps the wrong people underneath the CEO were put in place and acted as enablers to those who put individual interests above those of the company.
Perhaps it’s all of the above.
But because of these poor “people decisions,” the shareholders and employees suffered the consequences.
Let’s take a current, real life example of the behavior and leadership we are looking to cultivate in the organization, the New England Patriots football team.
I am neither a rabid fan nor a hater of this team, but I do have the utmost respect for the consistent winning environment they have created. Bill Belichick is a strong leader that has created and sustained the team first culture. No one is bigger than the team and everyone is treated the same, including Tom Brady.
Result? Consistent winner.
Coincidence? I think not.
Add Strong Leaders That Buy Into Your Culture
How do we translate this to the business world?
Start by putting a strong leader in place who has zero tolerance for anything but a team culture that is driven to produce sector best results.
Add leaders below him/her that buy into that culture and drive it down through the organization.
Develop your people so you can get to the point where you are promoting from within at a ratio of 70% to 30%.
Beware of hiring people who have moved around from company to company on a frequent basis.
Quash Self-Aggrandizement, Reward Team Performance
The CEO or Owner absolutely must be willing to quash any and all individualism and self-aggrandizement from his or her own direct reports and insist they do the same down through their own functional organization.
Do not reward individual performance in your compensation plan but instead reward team performance.
The leaders of this team-oriented culture should have no fear of culling the non-team players from the organization immediately. No second chances.
No matter how you look at it, you can’t change the individualistic orientation of some people. Recognize it, realize it, and eliminate it. Office politics is a value destroyer!
There are just too many leaders out there that accept “self-first” behavior and don’t have the courage to do anything about it.