Wed | Oct 16, 2019

Trevor E. S. Smith | Caught in the middle of a turf war

Published:Sunday | October 7, 2018 | 12:00 AM

"My department is like a garrison or silo. I don't feel like I am a part of the overall organisation."

"It would be easier to get information and cooperation from our competitors than from some of our internal departments."

"I think the unit managers are more interested in fighting for turf than in collaborating for the benefit of stakeholders."




Are turf wars really an issue in today's enlightened corporate environment?

Is corporate infighting and jockeying for positions and power prevalent?

"Many of today's workplaces have become battle zones. Most people would say this is caused by increased competition among managers for dwindling resources - the result of cost cutting in an economic downturn. However, another more deeply underlying problem pervades society and particularly the modern business world. Workplace battles are often caused by the selfish behaviour of individuals who are more concerned with their own career growth than with making sound business decisions.

Company loyalty is thrown out the window in exchange for personal gain; workers no longer see any benefit to working together on the same team and spend most of their energy on how they can quickly get ahead. Managers and ambitious employees look for the "quick win" that will gain them recognition, bonuses, promotions - and the increased status that goes along with them". Excerpt from Work Zone Madness! Surviving and Rising Above Workplace Dysfunction, by Nancy Slomowitz




- Business process review

Turf wars are waged at a high cost to the organisation. Taking care to analyse and quantify those costs might drive efforts to reduce the extent and impact of the corporate infighting.

Numerous sources of waste drive up operating costs. One riveting example is the situation in which one department collects raw data and spends time and resources in refining and repackaging. Another department receives that refined information and spends time extracting the raw data for their use. Having the two silos communicate would result in cost savings. However, a review of Business Processes or Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will cut waste and enhance efficiency on a wider scale.

- Competency frameworks

Turf wars distract the combatants from the focus of the organisation. Personal and departmental interests may take precedence over the priorities of the organisation.

One solution is to institutionalise frameworks that keep the organisation on track. Competency Frameworks reflect the vision of the organisation and, in turn, provide the platform for a rigorous performance-management system. Ask for information on our SPIKE e-Solution - Strategic Performance Improvement & Knowledge Enabler.

- Role clarity and succession planning

Even with the structures that will result from the business process reviews and competency framework development, individuals may still engage in turf wars to enhance their interests.

One approach to reducing the impact of the jockeying for positions and turf is to have clarity about the roles that are required to achieve the organisation's objectives.

Another challenge in many organisations is the failure to pay attention to succession planning. A policy of promoting from within tends to provide a greater sense of assurance to staffers. That policy must be accompanied by an investment in preparing the staff for higher-level roles.

The advantage of competency frameworks is that they set out in clear terms the respective roles, and the skills, attitude, and knowledge that are required to perform tasks to different degrees. The path to climbing the ladder is clear.

- Ethics and transparency

Turf wars and corporate infighting flourish in situations where office politics, cronyism, lack of transparency, and poor ethics are in place.

It is best to engage a crusader to conduct a campaign to hold the organisation to high ethical standards and transparency.




Request a no-cost consultation on developing competency frameworks or enhancing teamwork in your organisation.

Request a free copy of our publication: DISCerning Communication - Comprehensive Guide to Interpersonal Relations, Leadership and Coaching at

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• Trevor E. S. Smith and the Success with People Academy team prepare and certify leadership professionals and coach/mentors and develop engaged, high performing teams. Hire smart with their recruitment solutions. Now enrolling coaches in the ICF/SHRM-Accredited Certified Behavioural Coach programme. Email: