You know how every time you experience tingling in your hands, you run your symptoms through WebMD and immediately start to self-diagnose? (No, just us?)  

We’re no doctor, but we do consider ourselves experts on diagnosing your work health. That’s why we’re kicking off a new series of:

What work malady ails you? Let us check your symptoms.

Let’s start with an extremely common condition that millions of people around the world suffer from every day. Check all the symptoms that apply to your team’s work environment:

  • There’s a lot of whispering, hushed meetings, and private one-on-ones
  • Who you CC on an email is a highly strategic decision
  • Information is power, and it’s not freely shared
  • There’s a crazy amount of office gossiping
  • Getting promoted is based on who you know or are related to
  • From time to time, there is even the occasional BCC on emails
  • Smiley faces are used in emails in a passive aggressive manner
  • It’s not about the work you’ve done; it’s about how well you promote your work
  • Other people have taken credit for the work you’ve done
  • You need a PhD in manipulation to have any chance to succeed
  • People are incredibly territorial and defensive about their roles

If you answered “yes” to three or more of the above, then we have bad news:

Your team suffers from office politics.

This is a serious diagnosis, but you’re not alone. Revelation Consulting found that 70% of people they surveyed had left a job because of corporate politics, and respondents called in “sick” an average of 4.5 days a year because of bullying and manipulation.

That’s not just sad; it also has a hugely detrimental impact on your team’s bottom line. When information is hidden, distorted, or misdirected all in the name of personal gain, it inhibits everyone from doing their best work and achieving more as a team.

In fact, the very definition of office politics is when individuals prioritize their private agendas over the organizations they work for. That’s just bad business.

You should do everything within your power to eliminate office politics—and that doesn’t have to mean holding hands around a campfire singing “Kumbaya” with your teammates (although hey, no judgment.)

The real cure for office politics is simple:

Build a culture of transparency in your team.

We’ve written extensively about our approach to transparency and why it’s the number-one most important thing in the workplace (See: What Transparency Means to Us and Why It Gets the Best Results.)

In a nutshell, transparency means making all information—numbers, roadmaps, plans, challenges, and concerns—readily accessible to everyone on your team.

The currency of power in any team environment is information, and when that power is evenly distributed, you’ll pretty much completely annihilate all aspects of office politics. Simple, right?

The real question is how to build a culture of transparency, and we believe that you can’t do it without a team management tool that makes all communication and information accessible to everyone.

The vast majority of the time, office politics are an unintentional byproduct of poor communication. At some point throughout your career, of course, you’ll probably encounter a handful of jerks and run-of-the-mill nepotism. But let’s assume that most of the time, you work with people like yourself—fundamentally good at heart, but flawed and human and prone to the occasional error. You all want to succeed, but the tools you’re working with simply don’t empower you to succeed well together.

Old-school forms of communication—meetings, one-on-ones, faxes, messenger pigeons, and yes, email—are inherently opaque. The only people who have access to information are the ones present in the meeting or on the email thread, and the burden is then on those people to communicate that information outward to everyone else on the team.

Even if you do an all-star job of relaying the information, it’s a lot of extra work for you. Chances are you’ll accidentally slip up at some point. Even with the best of intentions, this becomes a hotbed for someone to feel out of the loop and for organizational politics to thrive.

We built to fix that exact problem. All communication is totally centralized in one spot, and everything you’re working on is there for others to see. If someone @mentions your name, you’ll instantly receive a notification, and most importantly, it’s there for everyone else on your team to see, too. You can even hover over a little eye icon to see in real-time who else has read the update. Other teammates are free to reply and chime in with whatever information or feedback that is relevant.

It’s so simple, but crazy powerful. You’ll completely eliminate the mindgames of, “Hmm, I wondered if they read my email yet?” and instead harness the full power and intelligence of your team.

Perhaps even more importantly, you receive recognition and motivation not only from your direct manager, but from everyone else on your team.

It’s one thing to have your manager personally tell you “great job,” but it’s truly incredible to have 10 people across your organization give a “thumbs up” to your update.

Instead of endlessly chasing after validation from upper management at the expense of others, you get the critical positive feedback you need from everyone around you. This builds excellent camaraderie and a positive and supportive work environment. It also cuts managers some slack, who typically carry the burden of having to provide constant one-directional feedback to their employees.

It might sound weird or unnerving to have everything out in the open, but the cost you pay for continuing to foster organizational politics is far greater.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “What’s ailing your team?” In the meantime, we’ll leave you with this…