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From office politics to positive engagement: boosting morale and retention

Group of divers work colleagues smiling together.

Office politics often conjures images of backstabbing, gossip, and power struggles. These negative connotations overshadow the potential for a more productive and harmonious workplace. Many organisations don’t like to think they have office politics but pretty much every organisation does! Understanding that office politics simply refers to how people interact and work together can help shift the focus towards positive engagement and collaboration.

Everyone brings unique perspectives, assumptions, and beliefs to the workplace, which inevitably leads to office politics. The nature of these politics—whether positive or negative—depends largely on how individuals engage with one another. Proactive and respectful interactions can foster a collaborative environment, while reactive and assumption-driven behaviour can lead to negativity.

The impact of negative office politics

Negative office politics can manifest in several detrimental ways, affecting both individual employees and the organisation as a whole:

  1. Low Morale: Constant negativity and distrust can erode employee morale, making it difficult for staff to feel motivated and engaged in their work.

  2. Low Productivity: When employees are preoccupied with navigating office politics, their focus shifts away from their core responsibilities, leading to decreased productivity.

  3. Poorer Decision Making: Decisions influenced by personal biases and power dynamics rather than objective criteria can lead to suboptimal outcomes for the organisation.

  4. Negative Culture: A workplace dominated by negative politics can cultivate a toxic culture, where employees feel unsupported and undervalued.

  5. Reduced Staff Retention: High levels of stress and dissatisfaction often result in higher turnover rates, as employees seek more positive and supportive work environments.


Addressing the root causes

Many issues arising from negative office politics stem from miscommunication and unfounded assumptions. People often base their interactions on rumours or incomplete information, which can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Changing the behaviour of others starts with changing our own behaviour. This can be a gradual process, as colleagues may be accustomed to certain patterns of interaction.

We all perceive the world through our own lens. If we believe our work is not valued, it influences how we interact with others—whether by avoiding them, becoming defensive, or even becoming submissive. By encouraging employees to reflect on their behaviour and communication styles, we can help them navigate work relationships more effectively.


Strategies for improvement

To foster a more positive working environment and improve retention, consider the following strategies:

  • Encourage Self-Awareness: Help employees understand how their behaviour affects others. Self-awareness is the first step towards improving interactions and reducing negative politics.

  • Promote Open Communication: Create channels for open and honest communication to prevent misinformation and assumptions. Encourage employees to seek clarification and engage in constructive dialogue.

  • Foster Mutual Respect: Cultivate a culture of respect where diverse opinions are valued. When employees feel respected, they are more likely to engage positively with their colleagues.

  • Provide Training and Support: Offer training on effective communication and conflict resolution. Equip employees with the skills needed to navigate complex interpersonal dynamics.

  • Lead by Example: Leadership plays a crucial role in setting the tone for workplace interactions. Leaders should model positive behaviour and address negative politics promptly and fairly.


Negative office politics can significantly impact employee engagement and retention, but it doesn’t have to be this way. By understanding the root causes and implementing strategies to foster better communication and respect, organisations can create a more positive working environment. Encouraging employees to reflect on their behaviour and engage proactively can lead to a culture where everyone works together more effectively, ultimately improving morale, productivity, and retention.

If you’re looking for more support with office politics you can watch my short webinar, Getting to Grips with Office Politics here, or get in touch.