Jobs - Careers doctor - Worried about gossip

Gossip and office politics have become an increasing problem at my firm and I'm worried productivity will be affected in the long term. How can I handle it tactfully?

Office politics pose a challenge to managers in every organisation. While no industry is immune, you can minimise the impact politically charged situations have on your firm's productivity and morale. Here are some suggestions on what you can do to minimise the effect:

•    Assess your corporate culture. Try to identify the unseen challenges employees may face in your organisation. Is internal competition at a healthy level, or is it consuming workers and ultimately reducing productivity? Are promotions clearly related to performance?

•    Recognise employee teams as well as individuals within the group. If one staff member tries to claim credit for a group project, try to diffuse the situation by publicly thanking all team members.

•    Maintain an open-door policy; think about whether all the managers' doors are closed most of the time at your company. While this may be necessary for special projects or private meetings, if it's happening regularly, it can evoke some negative symbolism. It suggests not only that employees are unwelcome in sharing their concerns, but, worse, that they might be the subject of secret conversations not meant 'for their ears'.

•    Avoid creating the 'lone superstar'; today's workplace is increasingly dependent on self-managed and cross-functional work groups. Top individual performers should also be able to work well with others and treat all team members with respect and dignity. Make sure rules of business etiquette apply to everyone.

•    No matter how strong people's commitment to a common goal, disagreements and misunderstandings invariably arise. The first step is to keep your eyes open to staff concerns and dilemmas. Make it clear that rewards and recognition are reserved for those who achieve their results through talent, hard work and team building - not by how shrewdly they play the game of politics.

Phil Sheridan, UK managing director Robert Half Finance & Accounting

If you have a career/job-related question, then email us at or send it to the editor, Accountancy, Wolters Kluwer UK, 145 London Road, Kingston Upon Thames, KT2 6SR.
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