Office Politics: The Ten Demandments

 
 
By Dr. William Moskal  |  Posted 2008-11-26
 
 
 

In the workplace, political skills can determine one’s ability to perform effectively. The following “Ten Demandments” are common-sense principles that can harness political energy to foster successful teams.

1. If you’ve seen one relationship, you’ve seen one relationship.
The key to managing relationships and teams is to understand your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of teammates, and adjust accordingly. To achieve success, you must know what motivates people and apply that intelligence to guide them toward achieving a common objective.

2. Without structure, there is no freedom.
Some management theories propose that unstructured environments are most effective because they empower all team members. That’s wrong! Without structure, anarchy reigns. People need rules about how to interact within a team in order to create responsibility and accountability.

3. People panic in herds and recover one by one.
Recall the last meeting at which employees were notified of organizational change. Likely, there were nervous glances, discreet whispers. After the meeting, employees gathered for conversations where rumors spread. When this “group think” devolves into widespread panic, it can damage a change initiative, morale and the organization. So it’s essential to communicate with and listen to employees and other stakeholders. When these audiences are told what’s going on, they begin adjusting to the situation and may even embrace the opportunity.

4. There are no obstacles; there are only possibilities.
By reframing obstacles as opportunities, you create a positive climate in which employees visualize themselves after the change rather than resisting each step. Lead by example and maintain a positive, encouraging attitude.

5. The Platinum Rule: Treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Be attuned to and respect the way your employees, stakeholders and colleagues work—and engage accordingly. Addressing their needs, concerns and expectations will help gain their trust.

6. When you jerk the socks on the clothesline, the underwear jumps.
It’s important to pre-assess your high-impact action steps prior to execution. Consider consequences, assume accountability and be very clear when communicating an action’s potential impact. Consider a pre-briefing step.

7. Reward and recognize good behavior.
By rewarding positive behavior, you’re encouraging recurrence. Recognize that individuals have different values and reward recipients with what they value. Reward and distinguish the teams first and the stars second.

8. If you own it, you take care of it.
As managers, it’s important to foster ownership in employees by communicating overarching objectives and the reasons why your team’s efforts are important to the organization. Make sure employees know they will be recognized and rewarded for their work.

9. Trust requires predictability and provision of benefit.
To build trust, managers need to promise only what they can deliver and deliver more than they promise—consistently. Employees need to know how they will benefit if goals are achieved and to understand the consequences if results fall short.

10. It’s about people, not politics.
We as managers must eradicate political bottlenecks that slow productivity and disrupt cohesion. We can commit to solving problems and exceeding goals by setting aside judgments, fostering camaraderie, communicating expectations, building trust and inspiring engagement.

Keep in mind that even organizations with very political environments can be successful by channeling the political energy into energy that will lead to positive outcomes.

Dr. William Moskal is a principal with IRI, a human performance consulting practice based in Detroit.