"In politics, as on the sickbed, people toss from side to side, thinking they will be more comfortable."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Office Politics starts to grow when people are not sure they are going to get what they want.

In other words: the amount of Office Politics in your team is in inverse proportion to how much you let them reveal their own greatness.

If you frustrate your team, they will find another way of achieving their own ends. They’ll start discussing ways to “make you think it was your idea” (shudder) just to get things done. They will align themselves with the people they think have the greatest chance of making what they want happen. Factions start forming, with people flitting between them as things appear to change. Perception begins to rule people’s decisions: (not “is this the best thing to do?” but “how will this look?”)

If however you spend your time ensuring that everyone is aligned around a common vision, communicating clearly and uniformly, and promoting great discussion and debate, the details will fall into place. Peter Drucker calls this “setting your team up to win”: providing them with everything they need to fulfil the high level tasks you set them.

For example, you ask your team to always have a build with passing tests, with well factored code. If you then load them with an unreasonable amount of work, or try and dictate the tools and processes they might use, they will feel frustrated and stop telling you what’s going on. You’ll lose trust and Politics, like weeds, will grow from the cracks that start appearing.

Instead, ask them what they need, and how much time they need to do it. Set them up to win by protecting them from stakeholders and allow them to work out the details. They’ll respond in kind by working with you, not against you.

It’s hard to eradicate Politics completely, but it’s easy to start making it less necessary. Remember: your team is designed perfectly to produce the result you’re currently getting.