If there's one thing I hate, it's the notion of politics at work. Backstabbing, withholding of information, people trying to climb their way to the top by ass-kissing: it's not for me, yet I've experienced it in my business many times over.
When you hire someone, you really have no idea if they'll play the office politics game. During the interview you can ask a question like, "Tell me about a time when you were involved in office politics and how you handled it." That might give you a bit of insight, but then again it might not.
Here are a few office politicians I've come across in my email marketing company, VerticalResponse, over the course of the last 12+ years. Recognize any of them in your company?
The bully. This is that person in management who tells their team members things like, "You better get this done fast, I have a gun to my head." This is terrible behavior because it makes YOU (as the leader) look tyrannical!
Nip this one in the bud. If you hear of this happening sit down with the bully and make sure they're sending the proper message to their teams. If they continue this behavior, show them the door.
The ass-kisser: It's great to have wonderful relationships with your people but if you acknowledge the AK you might send the wrong message to your other employees; you CAN get ahead by brown nosing the boss.
Treat everyone with respect and equally no matter what your relationship is. You don't want your employees sticking their fingers down their throats when they hear the AK saying, "That shirt makes you look so thin."
The information withholder. Everyone knows that knowledge is power, but you might have someone in your company not giving out information to others because they want to appear powerful. You also might have someone who withholds information to get ahead and make themselves look better.
Encouraging free flow of information is only going to make everyone feel a part of the same team. Transparency will help your business. In my company we try to send out a weekly email to the entire team telling them where we are to our goals and how it's affecting the company, positively or negatively. This can only help folks to do more and do better, plus help everyone feel part of the collective team.
The squeaky wheel. This is the person that's always in your ear about something, throwing tantrums, being loud, bringing up problems with no recommended solution. Worse yet, if they do have a solution it might be the solution that makes them more prominent in your company.
You need to make sure office politicians have the proper motivation: what's best for the company and your customers and not what's best for them.