It’s nothing new but we need to start working on this: Office Politics.

Operating a business is not a game show. It’s serious stuff. A business produces income that supports families. Business is the real life blood of the American economy, not oil. When businesses succeed, they create jobs. When businesses do very well, the employees do well.

Office politics and silly, immature competition for attention can prevent a business from being as successful as it could be. Silly survivor style alliances form. The insecure feel threatened and subvert the work of others. Cooperation deteriorates. Productivity is less than it could be.

Less than it could be. Pay attention to that.

When it’s pointed out that lack of internal cooperation is harming productivity, management will typically deny it. “Not here!”, they’ll say. “We work well together and the business is doing as well as can be expected under the current pressures.” They believe that too. They believe it because it is very hard to demonstrate hidden losses.

How can “things could be better” be proven? The only way to show that things could be better is to make positive changes and measure the results.

But if management can’t see or won’t see the problem, they won’t support the changes that could give them positive results. Back to square one.

This is a very frustrating problem for the person trying bring improvement to a business. They feel consumed by the little alliances that block every innovation, every improvement. Often they face a blow back from management for merely suggesting change.

The result is implementation of “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”. That’s slang for complacency. The employee who wants to bring innovation to a business but is always met with peer level opposition and the deaf ears of management eventually becomes complacent.

Complacency isn’t easy to diagnose unless one looks very closely at the right symptoms. It doesn’t present as laziness or lack of caring. In fact, in frustration many employees will work harder, longer and with great passion until they burn out. But they will quit innovating. They won’t offer new ideas. They won’t try to improve things. Complacency is identified by what people don’t do.

So we have a productivity loss that can’t be demonstrated and a negative employee condition marked by what employees don’t do. How do you convince management they are losing a lot of revenue because of these invisible conditions?

You can’t.

Only if management wants to continuously improve, to always do better, can this insidious cancer on a business be treated.

Sorry to report that most won’t see an urgency to fix what they cannot see is broken. And the irony is, this game of survivor includes deceiving management that everything is going just great. That puts the change agent clearly outside the team. Nobody wants to be there.

What to do? There’s little you can do. Only management’s desire for BETTER will open the door to change.

Chris Reich