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Sunday, 30 May 2010

Get Rid of the Water Cooler (But Not the Photocopier)!

The gravel voiced Dr Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, said: "Experiencing University politics made me long for the tranquility of the Middle East".

Very witty, but just try replacing "University" with, for example, "company" or "corporate" or "office" and there will soon be a resonance.

The fact is that many, if not most, companies suffer from internal politics from time to time and some people seem to think that they are employed solely for that purpose. It's the chat round the water cooler or photo copier, the rumour mill, the "have you heard about?", the "somebody should do something or say something" syndromes, all of which are corrosive and eat into morale.

There is little doubt that the overall reason is usually poor communications and it is interesting to note that whenever I have conducted employee satisfaction surveys anonymously, the major bleat is always that internal communications are bad or non-existent.

Taking out the hyperbole, there is generally more than a grain of truth in these opinions. Management suffer from the ingrained conviction that "we tell them everything - we have a company newsletter, an internal intranet, and my door is always open".

All good stuff but in the end, communication is a two way function and if management considers it to be a top down event, then the troops will see it as such and consign it to the bin, or worse, argue among themselves about it and what can be done about it.

The most successful companies have been able to implement a communications system which starts at the bottom and feeds upwards, so that management are kept fully informed of the general feelings at all levels. They then need to have the desire and frequently the courage to do something about it.

It is a matter of good sense to solicit opinions at all levels in a company. There is a mass of great talent in every business being wasted usually because of rigid job definitions and a reluctance to accept that even machine operators have something to contribute. Something to contribute? More often than not they know far more about what is happening at shop floor level than do the management and they want to contribute.

Fix the communications gap and office politics will soon wither or even die away because there is little or nothing to moan about . Mind you, you could always get rid of the water cooler (not the photcopier of course)

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Anonymous said...

Circumstances are the rulers of the weak, instrument of the wise..........................

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I believe that moaning shouldn't be taken for face value. To me, its a form of bonding between people. When someone moans and the other responds they are simply giving each other a verbal 'stroke'. The message is "I need some reassurance, do you like me?", "Yes, I like you, now you can like me back". The content of the moan is not often that relevant. Its the same procedure in the office, the pub, the football stadium, on the train. Its often a fleeting concern and soon forgotten about.