Office politics may be a fact of life but most employees would prefer not to get involved. A recent survey of 700 North American workers by international staffing firm Robert Half International indicated that four out of 10 (40 percent) of workers interviewed described themselves as only occasionally participating in office politics, limiting their participation to issues that directly affect them. Another 39 percent say they stay completely out of the fray.

Even though most employees consider themselves not heavily involved in office politics, some 56 percent have observed political maneuverings on the job. Gossip cited by 54 percent of respondents is the most common form of office politics followed by flattering the boss to gain favor (20 percent) and taking credit for others’ work (17 percent).

So how do you as a small business owner deal with office politics, which as the study suggests is inevitable, especially as your organization grows and your team becomes more diverse?  In “4 Ways to Eliminate Office Politics,” on, Jay Steinfeld, CEO of, advises.

  • Get real: Encourage people to engage and contribute to important discussions and mean it. When you ask your employee for an idea or suggestion, take it seriously.  Steinfeld says, “Don’t do it just for appearances or buy in and then go behind closed doors to make the real decisions.”
  • Give clear direction: Have a goal and make sure everyone understands it. Also reward those who consistently contribute to meeting the company’s goals.
  • Veto power plays:  Make sure your team understands the distinction between arguing for argument’s sake and healthy conflict that brings about change.
  • Reject negative politics on the spot:  Don’t tolerate it. Get the parties involved to work it out and then get back to work.

Steinfeld’s suggestions are about encouraging openness and respecting differences of opinion and each other.  Here are two things I’d add. Always be fair and consistent.  Give your employees little reason to doubt you have the best interests of the company and them at heart by setting a good example. Politics will have little impact when employees trust you and the organization. Also, pay attention to what makes your employees feel fulfilled and that they are contributing.  Happy employees are less likely to engage in office politics.

Suggested additional reading:  “Build your small business team to last”