The Effects of Politics in an Organization

As the nation continues to struggle through the government shutdown, the two “leaders” with the power to end it have begun playing political games at the expense thousands of governmental employees’ lives. Recent events have brought the awful effects of politics in an organization.

Pelosi fired the first shot citing the shutdown as a reason not have the President give the annual State of the Union Address since the Secret Service is affected by the government shut-down. Through tweets and press, the two sides traded barbs rather than attempting to work together to find a resolution. The President, in typical fashion, issued a rebuttal email stating Pelosi’s upcoming trip to three countries would need to be on a commercial flight versus government provided aircraft.

Human Resources usually has the role to intervene in such situations. An astute HR partner understands the detrimental effects politics in an organization, especially when the main culprits are in senior leadership roles. (And I use the term leadership very loosely!)

HR professionals have to move quickly and intentionally when such politics arise. If left unchecked or not confronted, this cancer can spread throughout any sized organization at a crippling rate. Middle managers and employees will choose sides. Productive work becomes hostage to the internal tit for tat politics. To add insult to injury, the morale in the organization will suffer the most.

While a bureaucratic, politicized structure is most often associated with larger corporations, startups and small businesses aren’t immune from this problem. Politics can infect an organization when the founders, investors and employees don’t agree on a company vision, Frankel said. [5 Simple Ways to Become a Better Leader]

How can HR fix organizational politics?

Although it can seem as though you are driving your dream car into a mine field, you have to do what you can to prevent the effects of politics in your organization reaching stage 4 cancer. Here are some quick tips:

Remind leaders it’s about the people

One of the most frustrating aspects of the politics involved in the shutdown are the thousands of innocent victims it is holding hostage. Similar situations happen in companies when leaders are more committed to their cause than the employees they should be leading. Help remind leaders of the victims and the effects of their political war. Sometimes giving a face to the effects of politics in an organization can help leaders come to their senses.

Force leaders to workout their differences together

One of the benefits of this strategy is the ability to show the organization’s employees how to properly handle conflict. Leading the charge, HR can use this potentially negative situation as an opportunity to teach everyone in the organization how to resolve issues without politics. Forcing leaders to workout their differences rather than allowing the cowardly back and forth will shorten the timeline and effects of politics in an organization. Be quick, be precise and be firm.

Understand the root of the difference

Most situations are blown out of proportion when politics get involved. Much like a surgeon, HR must identify the roots of the difference and coach, mentor, and manage those involved. First deal with the issue but don’t forget to address the behavioral decisions made leading to the issue. It’s unfortunate how many times HR will deal with the issue effectively but neglect the behaviors and decision making that led to the fiasco. Don’t miss this opportunity.


Politics seem to be ingrained in the human DNA but should not be allowed to get out of control. HR warriors should be vigilant to protect the organization and its employees from the cancerous effects of politics in an organization.

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