Nobody likes to play office politics. It is demoralizing to worry more about who your friends are and who can buddy up to the boss than to worry about the quality of work being produced. When there is too much politicking going on, it naturally drives talented people away from the organization. Office politics comes in many forms, but it often stems from a lack of transparency. If employees don’t know how decisions are being made, those decisions can seem arbitrary and based on relationships rather than performance. One way to reduce and even eliminate office politics is to focus on making data-driven decisions at all levels and in all areas of the organization. When data is woven into the fabric of the company culture, there is no room for political discord.
Data Doesn’t Play Favorites
When someone is buddies with the boss, it can feel as if they are treated differently than others. If the head of Marketing plays golf with the CEO every weekend and his department never seems to experience budget cuts or never seems to receive poor performance reviews, resentment is sure to follow. However, when the CEO relies solely on data to make decisions, politics, and friendships get taken out of the equation. Numbers show an objective snapshot of performance, regardless of personal relationships with colleagues.
Data is Transparent
Relying on data also increases the level of transparency throughout the organization. If a department is continually under fire or continually held up as a shining example of success, the rest of the company can see in real-time and in black-and-white the reasons why. It also allows the company to set clear benchmarks on how teams can succeed.
Data Promotes Accountability
When data is used to review performance and is tied to pay raises and promotions, it no longer matters who is friends with the boss or who was able to take down another employee through an aggressive gossip campaign. The only thing that matters are KPIs. People stop being accountable to intangible, political practices and they start becoming accountable for their results.
However, it is important to put those numbers in context. Raw data doesn’t always paint a clear picture. In baseball, for example, pitchers are often judged by their earned run average (ERA). But that standalone stat doesn’t tell the whole story. Lots of pitchers have high ERAs but also have winning records because their teams put up strong offensive numbers. Lots of pitchers have low ERAs but losing records because they lacked run support from the team. When using data, it is important to paint a holistic picture to get a true feel for how people are actually doing, and that wide view should be used when evaluating performance.