Anonymous Career Advice

How To Win At Hybrid Office Politics?

Today’s anonymous career advice is around the upcoming issue many are going to encounter, hybrid office politics, concern over conversations that happen in person or was had in person while you are working remotely or from home and impact you, your department or the direction of an important project.  

Dear Focus,
I’m struggling with the ongoing leadership politics and the political shifts while working hybird, how do I keep up and stay on top? 

This is going to be an important lesson for many professionals to understand and decide how they tackle the new political battle. 

Something to remember, being political is always an option, there are many executives who can operate without being consumed and they concentrate on their teams delivery. 

With that said, unfortunately, (PQ) Political intelligence is usually a vital skill many do not develop and keep on top of the political pulse within their business. 

Some businesses are built on politics, it’s how it operates and likely was bred into the management subculture. 

A thought process to go through, can you reduce the demand for you to get involved? 

Politics Vs No Politics 

You have to decide do you try to remove the politics or do you embrace it. I would start by trying to remove the negative political decisions within your business. 

The Elephant In The Room

As discussed in is my company breaking apart, “Communications Is King, Queen & Everything Inbetween” how will you drive better communication and address the elephant in the room. 

In a recent conversation, a management team suggested they had a clear the air meet up (in person) in late August that addressed their ongoing battles and realigned the leadership team and built out their management team expectation and agreed to principles. 

Asynchronous Opportunity 

An opportunity we all have with hybrid is embracing asynchronous communications, so rather than having many conversations in person or over video or on the backchannel chat, you rely on a deeper more deliberate conversation around documents and wiki’s. 

As recommended in Google It’s Ok To Manifesto, it is a good idea to create your own manifesto, I would keep an internal management manifesto that agrees with five to ten principles you will all sign up for and agree on.  

The Three Levels Of Problems Connected To Politics 

Internal Communications Problem 

Internal comms is often the major stumbling block within management teams. Some over-communicate and communicate in breakout groups, especially when there are goals not being hit, misalignment over strategy and then created numerous related issues. 

If internal comms is a stumbling block and leads to sidebar chats, be prepared to step up and call this behaviour out as a leadership team and discuss how you address this. The only way to address internal comms problems is tackling head-on otherwise it festers on and on. 

A Personality Problem 

The typical issue, when leadership teams do not know each other enough or understand each other’s motivations there is then personal clashes. 

This can escalate and then become personal and create clashes, there are a handful of people who get off knowing they can negatively impact colleagues days. 

Humans are tribal who connect and clash over the smallest and seemingly silly elements, be prepared to be the better person and encourage connecting on a different level.
Introducing Management pods has helped a number of business leadership teams connect 

An Ambition Problem

I have sat with leadership teams and offered power half hours which turned into many sessions and often politics stem from clashes with ambition.

In a recent session, a management team were clashing over how much of the budget should be redirected after a re-forecast and the team were split down the middle of how much to reinvest in growth, where many believed with the market they operate in would actually shrink.

The teams came together with an agreed test to overly invest in Q3, understand if there is a new seasonality and revisit in Q4 into Q1 2022. 

For instance, one leadership team I sat on was greatly divided by how hard we pushed and which business line was made the priority. 

There were three groups: 

1/ Some leaned towards being conservative, which caused anxiety based on that year’s performance. 

2/ Another group wanted to double down and invest heavily into a business line to grow. 

3/ The last were all in. 

This ultimately created two groups (status quo vs invest) clashing a few times a month and resulted in a divide that was only fixed when it came to head and required two weeks worth of realignment and hard discussions. 

The Questions To Ask & Answer

  • How has it developed over the last 15 months?  
  • Are there pods of people who push office / internal politics? 
  • Are department leads being rewarded by being political? 
  • How can I step up and lead better discussions? 
  • Can I remove politics with better communications? 
  • What happens when you disengage? 

Hybrid Office Politics Tips: 

  • Remove Side Chats & Side Bars – Moving away from side chats, for instance: private work channels on slack or teams and the informal WhatsApp, telegram, iMessage groups 
  • Any important in person discussions have to be shared in the canonical management team channel or email thread, keeping a decision document will help align management teams and departments. You have explain your decisions and who was involved, this encourages better decisions and opportunity to challenge effectively  
  • Remove long threads on instant messenger and email, if conversations spin out of control or create side bars arrange a quick session 
  • Introduce a get to know me sessions, replace the last 30 minutes of management team meetings (for a month) to get to know each other and try to arrange a group activity (hybrid or in person), ideally around the campfire, eating or drinking 
  • If politics stems from business performance – how can you problem solve together rather than challenge each other. 
  • Celebrate in management meetings when you collaborate on problem solving – have a unsung hero of the month award (voted by all leadership team members). 
  • Give regular feedback as a group and as individuals. Introduce a scoring matrix if you prefer numbers – where you discuss performance from your departments and teams and you individually, you will likely see many strengths and weaknesses of individuals and as a group. 
  • Create ten agreed principles to follow and if bad behaviours creep back in you call out as group as soon as they happen  

Good luck in addressing hybrid office politics, I trust the tips and framing will help you and your business. If hybrid politics isn’t a place you can all land on together and you work effectively in, it might be time unfortunately to consider your options. 

Important Related Resources 

How to stay visible while working remotely 

Is playing the game necessary?

Will an offsite help my team connect? 

Need More Help With Company Performance & Leadership?