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IT is the worst for office politics

UK IT departments are a seething hotbed of office politics driven by tensions and disagreements, research by recruitment site Reed.co.uk has revealed writes Nathalie Towner.

The survey compared levels of office politics - power struggles, favouritism, affairs, back-stabbing, etc - in different industries. It found that the phenomenon occurs most frequently in the IT/telecoms field (69%) and least frequently in retail and sales (53%). The most common form of office politics is power struggles between staff.

Power struggles are normally associated with people in high office who have to negotiate over resources. For example, when Gordon Brown has to divvy up public funds, ministers have to fight hard to get the best for their department. Conflict in the IT department may lack the high profile but the principal is the same.

"It is a basic human trait to be territorial, and people want to achieve recognition and status at work," says Angela Baron, advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. "It is a fact of organisational life that there will always be struggles about how the business should be carved up."

While this sort of behaviour is to be expected in the office, the motivations behind it will be different depending on the seniority of those involved.

"Power struggles are far more likely to happen at managerial level," says Baron. "Lower down the ladder you get into office politics in the way that people manage relationships and try to further their own position and go up the corporate ladder."

How you behave if caught up in a power struggle very much depends on what you want to get out of it, says Baron. "Negotiation is necessary to get what you want," she explains. "If you want the best possible deal you cannot back down." The survey suggests most of us are more than prepared to fight our corner.

The results show that in some instances staff spend three hours a day on office politics, although the average time is 64 minutes. Wales was found to have the most intrigue going on, with an average of 77 minutes a day being spent on office politics. Workers in the North West are the most easy-going, scheming away for a mere 58 minutes a day.
"You can get people who are empire building for no tangible benefit," says Baron. "People can spend more time trying to promote themselves than actually doing their job. Negotiation is healthy but too much politics isn't."

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