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  • Writer's pictureCindy Copich

Office Politics and Its Impact on Retention: Is it ALL Bad?

Updated: Apr 5

Let's face it- workplace politics is a part of every organization. As defined, workplace politics is the use of influence and social connections for power. The truth is that unchecked and harmful politics can DESTROY a positive workplace culture. It can also negatively impact employee retention (and recruitment), employee engagement, and productivity. Office politics can result in policy violations for cronyism and nepotism, but these can be difficult to prove. Usually political promotions happen because supervisors have the blind support of those higher-up or their leadership have modeled this behavior.

Once you see this negative shift start happening, it is nearly impossible to restore trust with employees. The impact can be devestating to the organization, resulting in a decrease of employee engagement and overall satisfaction. For example, rumors and gossip in an organization are extremely harmful. Supervisors and employees need to be prepared to acknowledge and address these directly without putting their head in the sand. Ignoring, or even worse encouraging, this type of behavior doesn't benefit anyone! "According the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), roughly three out of four individuals—almost 75%—who experience workplace harassment do not report it." Most organizations have policies against workplace harassment and bullying, but these policies are rarely paired with appropriate training on what DOES or DOESN'T meet the threshold. When these policies are adopted, employees need to be trained annually on how to identify harassment and address it. They also need to be held to an ethical standard of behavior that works to identify the source of these violations and reprimand (and monitor) those involved.

On the other hand, influence and social connection that result in political power can also be healthy when that benefit is used to help others. Building relationships with supervisors and co-workers is important. Using social capital to support a co-worker's idea or to address an organizational issue can be a positive use of workplace politics.

As leaders, it's important to be aware of the politics at play and to ensure that they don't overshadow the values and goals of the organization. Remember, a positive workplace culture is essential for employee retention.


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