The burden of office politics in HR

With the best will in the world, there are internal politics influencing, restricting, frustrating and colouring how all organisations are run, and consequently how HR works in that organisation. We’ve all experienced tensions between colleagues, and observed the impact of challenging relationships between senior managers on the rest of their teams.

As an HR professional you can find yourself picking your way through the office environment trying to influence strategy and resolve problems whilst bearing in mind the reality of relationships between the key people as well as the need to protect your own position and maintain good relationships with all senior managers in order to be effective in your role.

One of the first challenges in this respect is actually finding out about any tensions or relationship issues, or conflicts between teams or managers, which involves keeping your ear to the ground and building up useful contacts throughout an organisation.

Office politics can be negotiated successfully by HR professionals if they have a good commercial awareness, exceptional negotiating skills and are highly integrated into the organisation. But even if you have all these and can perform effectively in your role despite internal politics, it’s all very wearing and frustrating, particularly if you stay in the same organisation for some time and see the same issues and same relationship difficulties, personalities or agendas impacting how people are managed.

Working with clients rather than being employed by one company means very little involvement in office politics, and you do not have the same restrictions and frustrations. You do sometimes come across politics of course, but tend to be advising clients on managing it rather than getting drawn into or directly affected by it.

Obviously I need to understand any internal politics within a client organisation to a degree, but as I’m not involved in the day to day running of their business or physically on the premises very much, or having much (if any) contact with employees, the burden of office politics just isn’t there for me.

Avoiding office politics wasn’t one of the things I’d thought of or was seeking when I decided to start my own consultancy business. I hadn’t found it to be a particularly challenging issue while working in-house, but actually once I was working on my own with clients, the difference it made to my work was very noticeable, and it’s a very welcome side effect!

If you’re interested in talking to us about becoming a partner with face2faceHR, do get in touch.