Even though I'm someone who has never been very involved in Politics, I seem to be surrounded by politics a lot of the time - office politics that is! Clients often put the word "just" in front of that phrase, trying to play down the true impact it has, but the effect on many staff experiencing uncomfortable game-playing and point scoring should not be underestimated. On average more than an hour's productivity a day is lost at work through office politics.
I recognise the signs when people use "playground" vocabulary: It's not fair, or mention favouritism and in-fighting. Of course it's natural that colleagues have differences of opinion, but these must not be allowed to develop into power struggles. The best mechanism for preventing that escalation is to ensure that the individuals engage in professional and constructive dialogue. For one of my clients, I am working with several members of the same team and I can almost map out the departmental politics, it's so unsubtle. The personalities have been involved in so much gossip and backbiting, with tears and anger rising to the surface, that I am amazed there has been any productivity at all.
This sort of situation is time-consuming and undermines the stability of individuals, teams and organisations. In the worst cases this leads to litigation and loss of key staff, but even seemingly minor office politics can force people to take extra time off, feeling de-motivated, stressed and ill. As in family relationships, misunderstandings, wrong assumptions and a lack of respect for different behavioural styles cause much of the tension. Correcting and trying to eliminate this really isn't rocket science!
Managers and supervisors need to ensure that this UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOUR stops. When I'm facilitating and working with 'both sides', it is always fascinating to realise that not only do the underdogs feel vulnerable and insecure, but the 'politickers' are only game playing because of their own lack of self-esteem. Both sides can be coached to reach win-win outcomes. It's bad management and self-defeating to ignore atmospheres and difficult situations as "just office politics." Time spent on formal or informal discussion, with the emphasis on listening, will encourage appreciation of diversity, and provide options and solutions in a non-confrontational professional way, so that colleagues can work together, not against each other.
Thanks for the summary email which clarifies the situation and helps such a lot - things are already being put into practice.