Politically-charged workplace environments are detrimental to building a culture of trust and respect. They break down attempts at synergy amongst teams and develop the “silo effect” between departments. This type of “one-up over you” mentality reduces efficiency in the overall operation, diminishes morale and may contribute to the demise of a productive company culture. Typically there is withholding of important information and people may feel left out and discounted in their efforts. Toxicity and resultant pain affect everyone negatively – work has become something to be endured.

In the workplace, a politicised environment diverts energy away from organisational goals to outbreaks of dysfunctional behaviour – people protecting themselves from hurt and pain, communication barriers, suspicion and insecurity. Some of the prevailing signs of an environment that is toxic are as follows:

  • Withholding important information
  • Increase in gossiping
  • Avoidance, particularly of certain managers
  • Blaming, pointing fingers and not taking responsibility for key business imperatives
  • Taking sides, etc.

To get the business focused and applying its energy appropriately, the culture needs to be addressed by all in leadership. Approaching your boss about what you perceive in the environment is no easy matter. It is easy to get sucked into blame and pointing fingers – to avoid this, the conversation has to be centred in that which is going to be beneficial for the business and the respective teams that operate there. Preparation for the conversation is essential, remembering the following key principles:

  • The goal of the conversation is business effectiveness and efficiency – the quality of the brand, the company’s reputation, production efficiency, a values-driven culture, teamwork, etc. It’s not about “you”!
  • There should be no finger-pointing – no singling out of individuals or blaming of individual teams. Discuss the concepts rather than the people.
  • Establish a clear understanding of the “pain” induced by the environment – demonstrate to your boss the nature and cost of the “pain” to the company and reiterate the need to dismantle detrimental patterns. Present accurately measured evidence where necessary.

To structure the conversation with your boss, the following actions should be taken:

  1. Before meeting with your boss, write down how you personally have been affected by the perceived politicised environment and the feelings that have been evoked by the same. Acknowledge these feelings and then agree with yourself that you are going to put these feelings to one side out of concern for the company and its brand.
  2. From the perspective of retaining the brand reputation and a desire to restore a meaningful company culture, outline what you perceive the issues to be – do not personalise the issues, single out no-one nor focus on any specific team, but rather just list the issues and their negative effects (look at impact on relationships, communication flow, trust, customer service, etc.).
  3. Once your preparation is complete, meet with your boss and share the issues (giving non-personalised examples of what you mean).

Define a course of action with your boss – typically, you would be thanked for mentioning these perceived limitations to the culture and the boss would take responsibility for the issue from there.

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