Want to Keep Politics Out of the Workplace? It All Starts With Smart Hiring


Canadian training and development expert Brian Tracy might have said it, but everyone who hires or manages talent knows it to be true:

The smartest business decision you can make is to hire qualified people. Bringing the right people on board saves you thousands, and your business will run smoothly and efficiently."

Yes, hiring good people is an essential element to just about any successful business, but it took a recent article in Fast Company to remind me that there are not only a huge number of cultural elements you look for, but maybe just as many that you look to keep OUT of your office talent pool.

The importance of thoughtfulness

The article, titled 5 Strategies Facebook Uses to Avoid Office Politics, seemed straightforward enough, but guess what was the No. 1 strategy on the list?

It's this: Hire Thoughtfully.

Of course, it's good advice no matter what kind of position you are hiring for, but it surprised me to see it at the top of a list of things that Facebook is doing to keep politics out of their office environment. Here's what the article said:

Politics always starts with a person, or people, who get sucked into drama and discontent. At Facebook, while hiring for skills and smarts, they also screen candidates for their ability to work well together. To do this, they ask questions like: "What does office politics mean to you, and do you see politics as your job?" As (Facebook's global head of engineering Jay) Parikh explains, "Successful candidates should clearly demonstrate that their priorities are company, team, and self — in that order."

Office politics are the bane of a great many organizations, so it's great to see a company as prominent and forward thinking as Facebook make it something that they screen for when interviewing candidates for their organization. But in all of my years of hiring and looking closely at all sorts of organizations who believe they have refined the process down to a fine art, I've never seen a company be so blunt and up front about the fact that keeping overly political people out of the workforce is a key element of their interview and hiring process.

Office politics culture

Interviewing for what you want - and what you don't

Keep that in mind as you at the full list of the 5 Strategies Facebook Uses to Avoid Office Politics:

  1. Hire Thoughtfully;
  2. Redefine Success;
  3. Open Up Communications;
  4. Let Accountability Rule; and,
  5. Train Politics Out of Conversations.

My take: I wouldn't be surprised if office politics hasn't been a big problem for Facebook at some point during the company's brief existence. Large organizations, particularly in a super-charged business environment like Silicon Valley, are open Petri dishes for growing that kind of bad behavior. All you need to do is look at Yahoo to see the kind of issues that runaway office politics can cause.

What Facebook's philosophy shows is that it's critical to not only vet candidates for job skills, but to also examine them for both positive qualities you want to see in your employees, and, the negative ones that you are focused on keeping out.

It's not something a lot of hiring managers focus on, mainly because a highly talented individual with a strong political streak will almost always get hired if their skills are truly top-notch. What Facebook's focus shows us is that it is easier to keep rampant politics out of organization's culture before people get hired — NOT after they have already spread their behavior through your talent pool.

It's a hiring policy that a great many companies would do well to follow.