Office politics. It's part of working as part of a team. At it's best it's knowing the landscape to get the job done. At its worst it is far more sinister.
by Anonymous Comms Person
We’ve all seen it, a person/group talking about someone else, making snide comments, sending a hurtful text or even a nasty email. In the school playground we often refer to this as bullying.
But what about the work place?
What do we call it when it’s happening in front of you at work?
What is it called when someone ‘plays dirty’ to get ahead of others?
When they take credit for everything you’ve done, but send emails (which btw you’re not copied in to) saying otherwise?
In most cases the person that is talked about will somehow hear about it. They’ll find out what has been said. When they do, more often than not, it will hurt. Who you thought is a work buddy, an ally, a confidant, someone that is on the same team as you is none of these things. They are someone that’s cunningly looking for every opportunity to put you down.
Openly - or in private - they’re waiting for you to make a mistake, or better yet, fail, so they can step in and show how good they are. And before anyone says otherwise, it’s not done in innocence. They know what they’re doing. What they don’t always know is how this can affect you. How they’re backbiting can put you off your work, fill you with dread every morning, demoralise you, demotivate you and kill your confidence.
The truth is that most workplaces have these people in them. There’s no real way to escape them. And sadly, as we see more and more cuts in the council, the number of people behaving like this will increase. Continuous budget reductions, unexpected redundancies and the need to ‘protect’ your job, will mean that the workplace will become more unpleasant and hostile.
From bottom upwards, many people will employ various tactics to outshine their peers. Services will try to undercut other services. Heads of services will complain about other heads of services. Meetings will become occasions to finger point and lunches will become opportunities to sneakily find out more about what others are doing and how you can make head way in a particular space.
It may all seem trivial at first. Just harmless ‘fun’. But what happens if this continues? Answer: productivity drops and everyone’s – the person doing the backbiting, the people listening to it and the person being talked about – lose focus off the real work they do. Instead things said generate powerful emotions that drain employees’ time, motivation, attention, and energy. If this drama is happening at different levels and in difference services, the work we do at the Council lags. It begins to take second place to the drama going on around us. And if people are turning on each other, it won’t be long before they turn on the Council - and the management – they will after all look for a target for their unhappiness in the work environment. No amount of cascading, internal news and vision and values projects can undo this!
My question is whether this is necessary? Yes, the workplace can be cut throat - agencies, in particular are known to breed such hostility amongst employees. It’s something to do with winning and retaining clients, getting the best out of their workers for clients, blah blah blah. But councils and local government are different. They’re not like an agency, where it’s all about profit, turnover, personal gain etc. They’re supposed to be about the public? As public sector employees we are here to serve the community, ensure that we do the best we can for the public while getting the maximum return for the limited budgets we have.
So why are some of us forgetting this? Why is it that in the day-to-day struggles, we’ve forgotten the true purpose of our jobs – to serve the council and the community we work in. I for one am sick and tired of it all. Most of you probably are, so let’s forget the bickering and backbiting. Let’s get on with our jobs and leave the politics to the politicians.
Who’s with me?
The author is an anonymous public sector communications officer.
Picture credit: Florida Memory / Flickr.