Changes in the way that organisations are structured mean that office politics have grown from being a peripheral issue ten years ago to the single biggest cause of stress in the workplace today.
Research carried out by Roffey Park, a UK-based executive education and research organisation, suggests that the decline in command and control-style leadership has meant that managers have had to become far more adept at influencing, negotiating and navigating organisational networks – playing politics, in other words- in order to get things done.
At the same time, the demise of the traditional career ladder now means that the only way to get ahead is to spend far more time influencing and networking than would have bee the case a decade ago.
As a result of these trends, Roffey Park's "Management Agenda 2007" survey found that while in organisational politics was ranked bottom by managers in a list of demotivators in 1998, today it has risen above the issues of increased workload and management style to be the highest causes of stress.
Six out of 10 of all those surveyed reported an "increase in political behaviour in their organisation in recent years", with the figure rising to more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of for those working in the public sector.
"The overall rise in organisational politics accompanies the decline of traditional hierarchical organisational structures in favour of flatter, more democratic structures," said Valerie Garrow, Principal Researcher at Roffey Park.
What's more, she said, the survey of almost 500 managers revealed that conflict in the workplace has also increased, with four out of 10 (44 per cent) believing that office politics are the main cause of this increase.
The research further highlighted that underperforming organisations are more likely to experience an increase in political behaviour as well as to view such behaviour as a source of conflict.
However, despite this increase in office politics, workplace stress overall still appears to have declined in recent years, with two-thirds (68 per cent) of respondents this year report experiencing stress as a result of work compared to 78 per cent in 2005 and 91 per cent in 1998.