Office Politics

Protect Your Top Performers

Office politics is a sad fact of life. You need to protect your top performers from this insidious activity; you do not want to lose them!

People, who get results, get noticed. Unfortunately, in any organisation, there always seems to be someone who will want to bring them down, or steal their results.

Different Performers

Performance, as has been said before, is not dependent upon personality.

Your best salesperson, for instance, may be a totally outgoing and exuberant individual.

On the other hand, they could be a very quiet achiever who is, sometimes, not even noticed. They display totally different personality traits, but they are both top performers in their jobs.

The danger is, of course, that you can get a non-performer who makes lots of noise about what they have “achieved”. They are good PR experts.

They know what noises to make to get attention. And these people tend to get noticed simply because they are making “noise”, not because they are actually producing results. Office politics is a dirty business.

Non-Performer Tactics

  1. PR as a ToolSome people operate on the basis that, if they “PR” themselves enough, they will get noticed and get rewarded. Their attention is entirely on themselves and they will spend no end of time telling you how good they are, or how much they have achieved.The game becomes “how can I present myself in a good light in order to get rewarded”, rather than, “How can I get the results that this job requires.”The top performer is not usually motivated by rewards. They are motivated by the results they get on the job.
  2. Stealing ResultsIt might be hard to believe, but some non-performers actually go to the extent of stealing the results of others. Your performance management system needs to take account of this type of office politics.They have no actual results of their own to “crow” about, so they claim (as theirs) what someone else has done. The theft can be quite blatant, but it can also be cleverly masked. One way in which they cover up their deception is to come in on the tail end of something and then claim all the glory.Imagine this: a quite achiever works hard on a project for six months. They have done all the preparation, all the research, all the building.

    But, when it comes to the final conclusion, some conniving non-performer comes along and rapidly positions themselves as being involved with it all along.

    They then mount a skilful office politics PR campaign with management to focus all the attention on themselves and what “they have achieved”.

If management is not alert to this ploy, they can be conned into thinking that the non-performer has done all the work and therefore give acknowledgment and rewards to the wrong person.

Performer Motivation

A top performer does not usually do the job in order to receive rewards and acknowledgment. A true performer is motivated by the challenge of achieving those results.

If a top performer achieves top results, but gets little reward for their effort (in terms of verbal approval or bonuses), this is not usually a problem in itself. They get their kicks from the overcoming of the obstacles towards achieving those results, not from rewards. See Employee Motivation for more detail.

But it’s another thing entirely when their fine results are attributed to another who does not deserve them. A top performer’s results are actually their most treasured reward. So if someone else steals their results, the performer feels it; right where it hurts.

One of the worst things you can do to a top performer is to attribute their results to another.

Not acknowledging the performer is usually a non-issue for them. They are not looking for acknowledgment.

But, acknowledging someone else for what they have achieved can be an extreme negative. Office politics is the bane of the top performer.

How do They React?

When a non-performer robs a performer of their hard earned results, the performer definitely feels it and will have some sort of response. The way in which they respond depends upon their personal make-up (their personality, if you like).

  • A very strong and direct performer will make a big fuss and lots of waves. They will react so strongly that an outsider might wonder what all the fuss is about.But, realise that the performer has been stabbed in the back and can be very upset about it. And they are likely to stop all production in order to right the wrong.
  • A quieter, more reticent, performer is more likely to bottle it all up and not make a fuss. They will be very disappointed, but may not express their disappointment is such a volatile manner. But they have been equally hurt and are also very likely to stop production.

Overall Results Go Down

Regardless of how the performer may react to this situation, the net result is that performance will diminish in that area. There goes your performance management system!

If it really was the top performer who produced the results that are in dispute, then top performer will no longer actively pursue further results, so you can expect the statistics of that area to drop.

If all you have left for production is the non-performer (who did not, themselves, actually produce the disputed results), you have no-one who is effectively operating in that area. It is therefore very important to protect your performers from this office politics phenomenon.

How Do You Know?

The simple rule is: take a good look at the area and determine what results are actually being produced. Don’t listen to what people tell you they have achieved, without verifying what they say against results that you can actually see and measure.

Results are measurable. They are statistical in nature. It’s…

  • How many.
  • How much.
  • What improved, etc.

If you only listen to what people say they have achieved, you may get a distorted picture. If you look at what has actually been accomplishedand who actually achieved it, you will get the right answers.

Beware of office politics. It can kill your top performers!