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High cost of office politics


According to new research by Reed, based on the opinions of temporary workers, the average workplace loses more than an hour’s productivity a day through office politics. One in four temps questioned have experienced office politics in every temporary job they have done.

‘Power Struggles’ were cited as the most frequent cause of office politics by over 40% of the respondents, followed by ‘Differences of Opinion’ and ‘Favouritism’. Only 2% listed sex and affairs between staff as the main cause of office politics, though this percentage doubles in the North of England. Power struggles occur most frequently in the Service Sector, where almost half of the temporary workers said it was the most frequent cause of tension and arguments in the office, and least often in the retail sector where less than one in three temporaries have noticed it.

Regionally, Wales is a hot bed for office politics, with 77 minutes of each working day spent on the subject. The North West and Scotland contain the least office politics, and are the only areas where the time spent is less than an hour. Workers in London can expect to spend an hour a day involved in office politics, and London is the area where a high 96% of temporary workers have come across office politics at some point.

Reactions to office politics vary. Two thirds of temporary workers claim to simply ignore it and get on with their work, while one in three decide to offer impartial advice and support to those involved. This support and advice ranges from quiet words over a coffee to full crisis management. One respondent said: “Because I was a temporary, everyone felt they could confide in me, and I ended up becoming a part-time counsellor for the whole office.”

Tension caused by office politics appears to exist at all levels of organisations. Some temporary workers talk of ‘gossip and backbiting’ following international mergers, while others tell stories of petty arguments bringing the office to a standstill. ‘I have seen a grown man cry with rage at the prospect of a filing cabinet being moved 20 feet further away from his desk’ said one shocked temporary.

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