The Science Behind “Politics In The Workplace”

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Promotion only happens to those who are close to The Boss!

I hear this grievance often in my leadership classes: “I know why he got promoted, he’s close with the boss.” I would almost always surprise them with my answer. That observation could be true based on the LMX Theory (Leader-Member Exchange Theory).

LMX Workplace

The LMX Theory

The theory’s focal point is looking at the relationship of a leader with every direct report. It measures the degree of proximity between the members of the team and the leader, which is categorized into two: the IN-GROUP and the OUT-GROUP.

Everyone in the team starts from the same point, significantly distant from their leader. As time goes by, the split happens. If your behavior, performance, interests, etc., sit well with your leader, you often find yourself being trusted with more tasks or projects and critical information. You are slowly moving closer, with others, farther from the rest who are still standing at the point you moved from. You now belong to the In-Group.

LMX In-Group

If your performance and/or behaviors don’t fly well with your leader, you may not receive most of the personal interaction. Mostly just a traditional supervisory approach. You find yourself drawn far and into the Out-Group members.

In essence, the In-Group holds strong ties with their leader whilst the Out-Group is at a distance, just following what the job scope states. The In-group would be more updated with critical information, given the amount of interaction.  They are also given special projects that may help them grow because they show more enthusiasm in taking them on and deliver excellent results.

This may throw an organization off-balance. The Out-Group are deprived of opportunity to improve and grow but organizations succeed and grow more with in-group’s endeavors. Imagine if only everyone is given the same amount of interaction and opportunities. We maximize capabilities and increase the bottom line.


LMX Leadership

If you are a leader who aims to give each member of your team equal opportunity, take this time to contemplate where each of your team members sit in your own LMX circumference.  Hopefully you have most of them in the In-Group or at least nobody is left out.

It is best that you schedule all your team members a one-on-one catch-up with you every week or month. The more frequent, the better! You also have to understand that they have unique sets of strengths that will be beneficial to the organization and it is your job to discover them. You may be able to put their potential to the test by giving them special projects and discover their talents.

Do not forget too, that it is also your responsibility to bring them to where you want them to be. You ought to find ways or method to help them become motivated to work hard and smart and be better at what they do.


Politics in the workplace is true and can be avoided if you (whether you are a team member or a leader) do your part to eradicate it.

Published by fran

Fran Saguindang Riego de Dios, MS has been in training and leadership development for 15 years now. She was awarded one of the Most Talented Training & Development Leaders in the Philippines 2019 during the 14th Employer Branding Awards by Employer Branding Institute. She also enjoys art and music. You may also visit her personal Leadership Blog Site at Leadership Project.

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