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Critical Conversations and the Direct Communication Style

How to Encourage Workplace Diplomacy

Office politics refers to how employees interact in your business. Help your employees become diplomats in your business's office environment. Business diplomacy can help employees operate effectively and fairly.

  • Encourage employees to get to know one another. Getting frustrated with coworkers is easy when you don’t understand their motives. But if you're familiar with not only their responsibilities, but their personalities too, you may not take things so personally. The same holds true of your employees.

  • Promote working through the chain of command. Working through the chain of command decreases the potential for office politics.

    If you bypass several management levels to get to the department head, at best you have proven that you don't trust the management structure. At worst, you have shown the managers you slighted that you are secretive, unworthy of trust, and manipulative. Remember, you have to work with these people long after the current crisis is resolved.

  • Spell out preferred protocols. Protocol is the accepted way to behave in a certain situation. When it comes to business situations, think of protocol as the unwritten rules of conduct.

    For example, you may want them to lend a helping hand to a swamped coworker on occasion or refrain from disagreeing with your staff publicly during team meetings.

  • Advise employees to communicate online with courtesy. Encourage your employees to respect one another, no matter how they’re communicating, even via e-mail. Note that sarcastic humor is almost always misinterpreted over e-mail. If you feel compelled to include a smiley face in your closing to prove that you were joking, odds are that the joke isn't appropriate for professional correspondence.

    And while we're on the subject, don't include smiley faces in your professional e-mails.

  • Remind employees to protect their credibility. Let your employees know that next to their job performance, nothing has more bearing on their stature or their influence within your business than their reputation for integrity and honesty.

  • Request that they share the credit. Make sure that your employees don’t monopolize the spotlight. Few things foster bad-employee relationships faster than this.

  • Encourage your employees to resolve conflicts without you. If two of your employees are having a conflict, encourage them to work things out and do your best to stay out of the middle.

Workplace diplomacy is often easy to facilitate if your employees know a little bit about each other. Give them opportunities for interaction. Ask employees to cross-train one another or assign mentors. Hold regular team meetings that cover more than merely the business at hand. You don’t need to host a gossip-fest or make people feel obliged to make friends at work, but you should permit a bit of friendly chatter to start the session.

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