Civil service rife with office politics, study finds

Civil servants most likely to say office politics exist in their workplace, and men are more likely to think that’s a good thing


By Civil Service World

28 Jun 2017

Nearly four out of five (78%) civil servants think that office politics exists in their workplace, compared to just 57% of lawyers and 60% of those working in the tourist industry.

Although more than two thirds of those surveyed in all sectors thought that office politics is a bad thing, only half of them think it is avoidable.

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The survey, carried out by DBS check provider uCheck, also asked respondents whether they thought joining in with office politics would benefit their career. Just 36% thought it would, though among men this figure rose to 72%. Men were also more likely to think that office politics are a positive thing, with 59% of male respondents saying this compared to 31% of the whole sample.

Psychologist Robert Stewart said: “People have a natural tendency to want to find their position within a group or tribe, so office politics becomes an inherent part of the work environment.

“People can often feel that if colleagues are engaging in talk around others, that they can become the object of the topic unless they become complicit. Thus to be part of the in-group, they feel it a necessity to become involved.”

He added: “Many are also cognisant of the fact that progression at work isn’t purely correlated with competence, for many work is still a social club with the most popular players progressing the fastest. Because of this, it’s likely that the perception of engaging in office politics could assist one in their career.

“However, this should be considered very carefully, for whatever words are spoken explicitly, many more judgements are made by others implicitly and reputations can be impacted. Once you are known for speaking badly of others, it can become very difficult to rebuild your reputation. A few poorly chosen words can last a career.”

Full details of the survey can be found here.

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