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CAREER PATH OR CAMPAIGN TRAIL?

Almost One Day a Week Wasted on Office Politics, Say Executives Surveyed

MENLO PARK, CA -- Although the elections are behind us, political momentum remains strong on at least one front: the office. In a recent survey, the nation's top business leaders said 19 percent of an executive's time -- nearly one day each work week -- is spent dealing with office politics.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 150 executives with the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

Respondents were asked, "On average, what percentage of an executive's time is wasted dealing with company politics?" The mean response was 19 percent.

"Executives who spend nearly one-fifth of their work week settling conflicts have less time to devote to more critical aspects of their jobs, such as developing business strategy and implementing new initiatives," said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam.

She notes that over-booked schedules may be contributing to the problem. "Recognizing and confronting politically charged situations early on is the key to preventing them from escalating. Unfortunately, as managers spend more hours in meetings or traveling on business, they may miss possible red flags."

Domeyer offers the following suggestions for reducing conflict in the office: 

  • Create an open environment. Office politics are often fueled by insecurity, so try to keep employees well-informed of internal news. Avoid closed-door meetings when possible, as they can give rise to speculation.
  • Seek integrity. Just one unethical or dishonest worker can generate significant tension. During the hiring process, ask prospective employees' references about the applicants' ethics and honesty, and at every opportunity emphasize to your staff the strong value you place on these traits.
  • Eliminate office rivalry. While a certain amount of competition can be healthy, too much is divisive. If workers feel they are judged not by their individual merits but by how they compare with others, the competition level could be counterproductive.
  • Delegate authority. If a busy schedule is reducing your face-time with staff, select someone on your team who can be more accessible when employees have concerns.
  • Watch out for burnout. An office filled with overburdened workers is primed for conflict. Bring in outside help when needed to ensure that assignments are evenly distributed. Staff members who have taken on more than their fair share of work are the first to burn out.

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