As I work with professionals around the world, I see they all are somethings in common, one of them is office politics. I hear comments about how office politics is detrimental to the organization, how uncomfortable it is and how hard it is to deal with it.
Thinking that organizations are full of politics and politics should be eliminated, is an illusion. Politics in my books is the art of working with others under unwritten rules. The issue is, are you playing a game that you do not know and understand the rules? This premise can be devastating and draining. It’s like having a goal of swimming to the middle of the ocean and not understanding that there are undercurrents that will pull you and push you, debilitating your physical and spiritual body to the core. And, yes, you may or may not reach the shore in one piece. This is the reason you need to know and understand the inherent unwritten rules of your organization. If you do, you will know where to swim and where to avoid.
Organizations are the not the only “creatures” that are managed through politics. Your family, your group of friends, your church or place of worship are all being managed through some level of politics. In fact, in any place where you have a group of people working together, you will find politics. Politics is about how we get things done and how we relate to each other. It’s also about the personalities, values and behaviors of the people who are members of a group. Denying that politics exist in any of the contexts mentioned above is being delusional.
The problem is not “politics”, the problem is not understanding the rules of “politics”. When you don’t know or understand the rules of engagement, you may misjudge, misunderstand or become complacent about the state of the political environment at work. You may even think and complain about how unfair politics is but it’s all part of the game.
You must see the big picture and realize that politics isn’t always bad and it’s not always good. Politics just is. There is politics, good and bad, in every group so you need to assess yourself in relationship to how well you fit into the group. If you are part of a group that wants you to be less than true to yourself, to become a portal of evil deeds, or abandon your core values, you may want to consider other options. Be true to yourself.
Dealing with politics.
I always recommend that you observe the dynamics of your family before you go observing the one of your organization. If you have your own business, check out your personal values and behaviors, who you relate the most with and how you make decisions.
- Observe who talks to whom, who deals with whom, who make the decisions, who the leaders without titles are and who have the power, even if they don’t make business decisions.
- Closely observe how people interact with one another. Listen carefully to what they say and how they relate to each other, who they listen to, how and what information they share.
I have observed two types of politics:
Power and Influence.
It is based on the duties, roles, tasks or work being performed. It’s the structure and leadership of the organization, how decisions are being made and how work is being performed.
Relationships and Informal Networks.
This type of politics is based on interpersonal relationships–who goes out with whom for lunch, shopping or happy hours, and who talks with whom during down time. This is the “gossip and power around the water fountain” type politics.
Get your Politics on:
Now, how do you manage the “Politics” around you? Well, there are a couple of ways:
- Have a plan, be specific about your future career goals. Know what you want.
- Create a plan to reach goals and a roadmap to achieving your results.
- Be positive and speak assertive words, but watch them carefully.
- Exude confidence, not perfection.
- Listen more, say less.
- When necessary, refrain from challenging opposing view and low blows to preclude escalation of the conflict. Remember, First Lady Michele Obama’s statement–“When they go low, we go high.” – practice and keep it in mind at all times.
- But be clear on your point of view.
- Keep your guard up. Make a conscious effort to make friends and nurture a network of them at, and away from, the job.
- Keep away from GOSSIP!
- When things get “hot” because of opposing views, people taking sides, chaos showing its ugly head, choose wisely, who will get support. When you do, be accountable for your decision. Make your decision reflect your deepest values.
- Keep your personal life, personal. Be intentional and guarded about what you share. There’s nothing confidential about what’s said publicly or privately at work. If you want to talk about private, personal matters, go to Jesus.
- When you’re making decisions, keep the greater good in focus
- Make it all about Business, not Personal. And, remind yourself that “it’s not just about me!” The fate and direction of the company could be at stake as well as your livelihood.
- Don’t let ANYONE make you compromise your values
Politics is not necessarily good or bad, it can bring people together or tear them apart. But ultimately, it’s not the politics that make or break, it comes down to your attitude and how well you play the game. How flexible or sensitive you are about internal issues. A big part of that is learning to be intentional with your words and behavior. If the organization doesn’t nurture your values or goals, you should transition into an environment that will help you soar to new heights. But, do it wisely, methodically, and mindfully!