You’ve probably heard someone say politics are getting uglier, and maybe you’ve said it yourself. I’ve noticed workplace politics are mirroring that trend.

With the US midterm elections mere days away, we have borne witness once again to the ugliness of politics.

The media has informed us of every allegation, conspiracy and dirty trick conjured up. Social media and TV keep us abreast of every lie. We can easily read every fear mongering statement in the endless attack ads.

Canadians can look forward to more of the same next year during the federal election campaign. Alberta gets a double dose because we have a mudslingin provincial election to look forward to.

Workplace Politics

The types of behaviors we see during elections are not confined to political occurrences. I’m seeing this behaviour become more prevalent in organizations too, unfortunately.

I’ve witnessed character assassinations through innuendo, implication, speculation and sheer vindictiveness of a caliber that would make the above-mentioned types of politicians feel at home.

It is disturbing to see the effect workplace politics can have on an organization. I’ve often wondered how the most senior of executives can allow such behaviors and then feign both ignorance and innocence. The costs of having office politics running amok are enormous.

I have also worked within companies where not only are the executives well aware of the ugliness of workplace politics but perpetuate it, either by action or inaction.

There is no law that says we have to like everyone we work with nor agree with them. We have all found ourselves having to work with people with whom we disagree on everything and to whom we have taken personal dislike.

But when we allow our own emotions to override our obligation to remain professional, we can cause damage that takes years to repair.

Scarcity Mindset

Backstabbing and unprofessionalism can be a result of an atmosphere of scarcity. Scarcity means a widespread belief that there is a finite quantity of reward available for all to share.

In other words, if one person gets something, it means there is less left over for all the others. Therefore, everything must be done to prevent one person or group from seeing significant reward.

Scarcity is an ugly productivity-limiting mindset. It pits colleague against colleague. It replaces friendly competitiveness with self-serving guardedness, resulting in many innovative possibilities never achieving their potential.

There is no space for politics in the workplace. Workplaces should be bastions of cooperative interdependence, collaborative brainstorming and fulfilling teamwork.

This will lead to continual organizational growth providing advancement opportunities for all and based on meritocratic principles.

That may seem like a naïve dream with little chance of becoming real and yet it is entirely possible.

All that stands between wishful thinking and a highly engaged, motivated, committed and results-producing workplace is the mindset of the leadership and the determination to create, promote and sustain a culture of excellence.

Something politicians might consider trying themselves.

Till we read again.

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