top of page

Reducing Office Politics & Increasing Workplace Empathy through Peer Learning

The concept of politics is like that popular kid in your school who you despise in your underdog group of friends. However, all of them secretly wants to be that popular kid. Because most of us think that playing the game of office politics can get you your personalised air-conditioned office space!

The very notion has its root in the times when civilisation started to take place. According to the book, "How Many Friends Does One Person Need?" by Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist, humans are capable to have 150 relationships or less. He traces it back to the Neolithic stage where the number of people per village was no more than 120 to 150.

This theory forms the basis for many structuring strategies at large scale companies, factories and military organisations.

This theory emphasizes the need to survive within large social groups, a sizeable social order is beneficial to a large-scale organisation. Politics, therefore, takes hold of the ideology of civilised social order necessary to enhance the group's survival chances. While this constitutes a positive outlook of why a social phenomenon of Politics came into being but "Life finds a way"

Such social groups are governed by a member from amongst themselves. What Aristotle called, "a citizen is one who shares in governing and being governed". This forms the basis of the hierarchical power and authority at workplaces. These power dynamics are inescapable when it comes to larger corporations but start-ups are not immune to this as well.

While positive office politics can result in optimum results but its negative counterpart can break all hell loose! Negative office politics affects the Workplace when an employee or team head spreads rumours or withholds certain information paramount to the organisation. Many such behaviours affect the company in the following ways:

1) Unified goals boiled down to Personal Agendas

In Aristotle's Political theory, he describes "Human beings as naturally political animals". People use their authority for their interests to protect themselves first, others second. If it were between the organisation's vision and their personal goal, they won't be able to resist choosing their own before others.

2) Rise In Conflicts

Every individual within a team might look at a deliverable from their lens. If not properly supervised, this difference in opinion might lead to conflicts.

3) A Negative Morale spoils the whole Barrel

While it takes an entire team to build up a camaraderie at a workplace it also takes just one rotten apple to bring them down. When a Team lead works for their gain, the entire team's meter fuels negative morale. This could also contribute to team conflicts.

While human beings are dynamic and there's no single rulebook to avoid the political nature of communication at a workplace but a way out is if every individual makes conscious efforts to reduce the organisational politics :

1) Draw the Hierarchy line horizontal

The larger organisation might not be able to adapt to flat hierarchies as it would affect their efficiency to some extent. But a start-up or a mid-size company can reap the benefits of cultivating a hierarchy less culture. It helps make every employee be more accountable and dedicated towards one single goal. The decision-making process becomes faster and the communication doesn't get diluted within the middle management other executive levels.

2) Compassionate Leadership

It has long been debated that setting up a place to nap or a bean bag full of room is not enough to increase employee satisfaction. Especially, in the current political and social scenario, the leaders need to be more empathetic towards employees' needs. An article by Forbes, describes a concept called "Empathy Circle" adapted by Zendesk, the topics in these circles are unstructured ranging from personal to organisational. The purpose was to facilitate conversations and 95% of the participants felt a safe and empathetic environment at their workplace.

3) Identify the Change and Implement it

The post-pandemic era has created a habit where some employees find themselves more productive working from the comfort of their homes. While some prefer a 50-50 deal on the same. Well, Twitter just sniffed on this freshly baked cookie and had it, owning the preferrable workplace tag. Due to their constant effort in making more flexible work styles, Twitter officially adapted to a Hybrid Workplace model. Such awareness amongst an organisational environment can create optimum employee productivity and less time for office politics. Nice guys don't finish last!

4) Knock 'em Silos down!

While we have nodded outwardly about the silos at workplace and how they clamp the organisational growth but seldom any action is taken. Breaking down these silos means less hoarding of information and a narrower route for office politics to seep in.

5) Ask, don't order: It's not a takeaway!

The earlier action genre of movies had a set plot where a hero defeats a villain with the help of one of the villain's clans because their boss is a ruthless leader. Only if the villain had asked their followers if they are available to abduct the hero on a weekend. What do you think? Often the team leaders pull the power card and impose a task on employees. Well, if the nature of work is of crucial one, they can always lead by first, explaining the task and second, by asking. This way no power dynamism can steer the employee to become a rebel and start their coup d'état with some political agenda.

6) Peer Learning & Knowledge Sharing

What we have learned from childhood is that we pick more habits from our friends than the ones our parents try to teach us. It is in human nature to more likely be influenced by their peers. Just like in an office setting, colleagues can become our search bars for information. An environment of knowledge sharing among colleagues can result in workplace camaraderie. Bhyve becomes one such unique platform where employees can share and resolve queries or exchange information with their peers. Especially in a hybrid structure where you can't roll your chair and ask your colleague for the last year's presentation deck.

Visit Bhyve, to know more about knowledge sharing and how it adds value to your organisational culture, one that would be free of negative politics and empathetic towards employees in unison with your long-term goals.