Politics has no place in the workplace. Government and business are two distinct entities. Government, in theory, is about service, consensus and serving the people. Business is about objectives, strategy and making money. The deal cutting and agenda driving apparently necessary in the former is the death of the latter.
If you find yourself having to navigate politics to get your job done, you might want to start thinking about getting a new job. Barring that, when you — as an employee, manager or business owner — sense that politics are taking over the workplace, it is time to sit everyone down to reinforce five simple points.
1. Focus on your job. Businesses don’t work if people aren’t doing their jobs. Companies are social organisms made up of different individuals with different responsibilities. Politics often creep in when someone thinks they should be doing something they aren’t currently doing, or when they sense they should be doing someone else’s job.
2. Trust your co-workers to get their jobs done. Business is built on trust and accountability. Everyone needs to know their role, the importance of their contribution to the greater organization, and how discrete tasks work together to create quality products and services and help a business grow. It is human nature to be competitive and to call attention to your own accomplishments (and you should.) The dirty dark side to that is the tendency to call attention to those who aren’t performing.
3. Speak privately with co-workers who aren’t holding up their end of the bargain before making it public. Most problems can be solved with open and honest conversation. If a colleague’s missed deadlines are preventing you from conducting your business, you owe it to everyone to have a private conversation about what’s getting in the way instead of calling foul publicly when you might not have all the information.
4. Do the right thing for the company. Businesses are in business to make money, to provide for their customers and to help their employees succeed. Understanding your employer’s goals and strategies to achieve these three aims will help you understand the importance of your contributions, where you should be prioritizing your efforts and, if you’re so inclined to take on more responsibilities, what you can do to advance both your company’s aims and your own career.
5. Do your job. When people do their jobs, companies win. This applies to rank-and-file employees, managers and business owners. Companies are made up of individuals working collaboratively toward collective goals. Which means that when companies win, people win. If you don’t know what your job is exactly, ask. If you’re a manager, make it your number-one priority to make sure your team knows exactly what’s being asked of them and why. And if you’re ambitious and want to take on new responsibilities, make it known, ask what’s needed to achieve and what steps you need to take to get where you want to go.
When personal agendas trump organizational goals, your company has a problem. Those who play politics at work probably see Netflix’s House of Cards as a playbook for how to succeed in business. But for every employee, manager and business owner who is really trying, the tools they should become comfortable wielding are clear goals, candor and transparency.