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INSIGHT

Office politics and how it damages your practice

By Elizabeth M. Miller  bio

Office politics can be a problem in any size medical office—from a company as large as 1,000+ to as little as a solo physician with two staff members.

A definition

“Office politics” is the use of networking within an organization to further one’s own agenda. The word “networking” could easily be interchanged with the word “gossiping”. That is office politics in the nutshell. 

How office politics affects your workplace

The truth be told, everyone likes to hear gossip now and then. It seems to make a boring day a little more interesting. But gossip and office politics are better left to the tabloids than in your medical office. Zero tolerance is an absolute if your staff is going to work together as a team without dissension among the ranks. The message that you have to send is that no amount of office politics—or gossiping—will be tolerated.

What are the effects of office politics on your practice?  

It will destroy office morale. No matter what other techniques you use to build office morale, office politics will destroy it in one fell swoop. Office politics takes on a life of its own.

The effects that office politics has on the morale of your staff will naturally flow over into their work.

The behavior of your employees is affected by the ongoing office politics. No one I know is that good at hiding their personal feelings, and when employees know that they are being maligned by their co-workers, this behavior manifests itself in the way they conduct themselves with your patients. This can be fatal to your office.

How to address the problem

Your staff spends a minimum of 40 hours a week co-existing in the office. It’s difficult for employees to isolate themselves from their co-workers and quite frankly isolation is not a good team-building mechanism among the staff.

Here are some steps firms can take to discourage office politics and encourage a healthy office environment that will not destroy firm morale:

  • Tell employees to keep their conversations with their co-workers on the lighter side. Discourage employees from discussing personal matters with everyone in the office. Since everyone in the office is supposed to be productive and efficient, there should not be time to engage in disparaging remarks about co-workers or bosses.
  • Keep an extra eye on the office troublemaker. There is at least one in every crowd. Know who that person is and make sure to monitor his or her behavior. When you see or hear the person engaging in this destructive behavior, re-direct the troublemaker.
  • Make sure that all employees know that discussions concerning any aspect of employee compensation to include not only salary but benefits and any other perks that may apply to one employee not the other is not to be discussed with co-workers under any circumstances. In some firms I’ve worked for the written policies and procedure clearly states the penalty for violating this policy was immediate termination. It can become that serious if employee compensation gets around the office.
  • Lead by example. I hate to say it, but sometimes bosses can perpetuate office politics, often without realizing it. Do not make derogatory remarks about any staff member’s work habits or behavior in front of other employees. As innocuous as an off-the-cuff remark may seem, this will become the topic of conversation for the next round of gossiping in the office, although it may not be seen that way since it came down from management.

Conclusion

You cannot ask employees to isolate themselves from their co-workers. I encourage the team spirit in every firm I work with. Staff need to bond with each other, support and nurture one another, and learn from each other. The best advice I give to employees to try to put a stop to office politics themselves amongst their co-workers is the old “see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil.”


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