I was asked once to describe all the feelings that came to my mind when I heard the words “office politics.” My answer? Drained, depressed, unappreciated, irritated and hateful, any of which can be the downfall of a business. A close friend with years of experience working in the corporate world described it best: the toxicity of office politics is like a ton of extra weight added on top of you, slowing you down and keeping you from accessing your true potential.
One of the main goals that has driven my career and company, Cyberclick, is avoiding office politics at all costs and concentrating on making people happy and fulfilled at work. After learning from all those I have worked with and listening to their points of view, I’ve implemented several best practices that keep politics at bay.
Give Other Employees a Voice in the Hiring Process
The best way to ensure you are not bringing office politics into your business during the hiring process is to get the opinions of all your team members. Perform preliminary interviews and bring candidates in for a formal interview with your team, where each person gets to ask a few questions to get a feel for their experience and skill set. Next, plan an informal coffee meeting to test for culture fit and then determine with the team if the candidate should be hired. Then, install a probationary period after you make a hiring decision. Have the team discuss after three weeks how the new employee fits within the team, the way he or she works and the potential the team sees.
Pay Employees to Leave
This idea comes from Zappos, where management offered employees a $2,000 bonus if they decided to leave. The point behind this is that employees should not feel trapped in a company where they are unhappy for whatever reason. The bonus gives them extra security while finding another job that leaves them more fulfilled. I implemented this idea at Cyberclick in 2011, offering employees a two-month salary if they chose to leave.
This strategy has forced my company to reflect on its culture and processes when someone decides to “take the money and run.” There should always be an analysis of why employees choose to leave in order to make the necessary improvements.
Build Smaller Teams Within the Company
Creating a strong team is one of the most challenging aspects of leading a company. Top-performing employees who don’t work well with others have an overall negative impact on the company.
One way to work toward inclusion is to create small teams within your one big team. If your company is large and disconnected, then you can strategically create smaller teams that consist of seven to 10 people whose daily tasks are interrelated. To connect these smaller teams, I have found it beneficial to organize regular dinners and drinks with all the employees. This gives everyone the opportunity to interact and get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere, which they may not get the chance to do on a daily basis. Some other ideas are going on day excursions and having weekend retreats that include all team members. If you provide the opportunities for employees to build relationships, unhealthy office politics become obsolete.
Don’t Just Define Values — Talk About Them
A company’s core values serve as a guiding system for employee behavior, decisions and actions. Try taking a little extra time during meetings to have each team member give a quick example of one of your core values as seen in their own lives, either professionally or personally. This encourages team members to look for positives and incorporate these values into their daily lives. Another way is to select books that reflect your company’s values, and read them as a team. “Crucial Conversations” is a great team read that will help your staff learn how to communicate with other people.
Try Quarterly “Confessionals” and Goal-Setting
Setting goals for the whole team is a great exercise for transparency and teamwork, and I’ve learned it works best when such goals are reviewed quarterly. Have a meeting where each team member comes prepared with strategies for reaching their goals for improvement in the following quarter. The other team members provide feedback, and each person has their own set of measurable goals to be held accountable for.
We also have a quarterly confessional where each team member expresses things that have been worrying them. They can be anything from feelings of personal unfulfillment to business-related challenges. Together, the team comes up with ideas to address the issues, which strengthens our problem-solving skills.
Office politics have no place in a strong and healthy company. If you stay true to your core values and continually strive to incorporate them in the work environment, your team will become stronger on the journey to success.