Now for a topic that you all have been interested in – Office Politics!
I will be covering this topic in three podcasts. This first podcast provides a complete introduction. The second will talk in detail about how you can be successful. And the third will cover managing your team.
As with all podcasts where I am covering a topic, I am making the presentation that I use available to you. You can get the introduction to office politics slides here.
In this podcast, I cover the following five topics.
Before jumping in, and as always, let’s start with a quote.
“You can’t avoid office politics.Bonnie Marcus
It’s a fact of life.
You may have negative feelings about it. You may think you’re taking the high road by ignoring it.
However, your lack of attention to what’s happening in the workplace can be extremely dangerous, especially if you are (an ambitious woman) working in a competitive (male-dominated) company.”
The reason for this acknowledgment is so that you can understand the perspective that I have in covering office politics. Here is a bit about me.
- I have a reasonably large social network that is primarily made up of people in high technology, heavily Caucasian with a decent representation of Indian and Asian, most from the US.
- I have traveled a great deal, most often to India, but I have never worked outside of the US.
- While working in high technology, most of my time has been in engineering, with some time in IT as well as customer support.
- I am a social introvert.
The best place to start is with a definition (or two).
Workplace politics is the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority. … It is also known as office politics and organizational politics. It is the use of power and social networking within an organization to achieve changes that benefit the organization or individuals within it.Wikipedia
: the activities, attitudes, or behaviors that are used to get or keep power or an advantage within a business or companyMerriam Webster
I want to ground the conversation in reality.
- Politics is neither good nor bad, it just is.
- Politics is a part of how an organization or company works.
- Politics is a part of the culture.
- Politics does not require that you sell your soul.
- But politics is something that you need to understand and navigate in order to be successful
There is a broad spectrum of office politics across companies, from good to bad.
- Decisions are challenged in an impersonal way.
- There is a system that needs to be navigated, but that system is reasonably well understood.
- The system is based on relationships, a shared understanding of goals, and working to find alignment through constructive discussion and debate.
- Change is a part of the culture.
- Accomplishment and teaming are rewarded.
- Decisions are made quickly, with just enough information.
- An individual’s personal rewards do not completely align with organizational objectives.
- There is a system that needs to be worked, and the best navigators are rewarded.
- The system operates through several cliques*.
- Urgency takes a back seat to process, and the stakeholders in the status quo become threatened by change.
- People who do not regularly produce results don’t get fired or reprimanded.
- The average employee has little knowledge of and visibility into the company’s decision-making.
*A clique is an exclusive group of associates that rarely allows others to join.
I then discuss in detail three examples where politics exist.
Example 1 – Reduced Investment in Important Product
This example showed that at times, even though the optics of the decision to reduce funding appeared to be political, it was well aligned with the strategy. Politics exist but in this case, not the bad kind.
Example 2 – Organizations Merged
This example is similar to the previous one. A decision to pull a team out of one organization and move it into the other, appeared to be bad politics. In reality, it was focusing on doing the right thing for the company and its customers.
Example 3 – Software as Important as Hardware
This example was different. It started off by working to address a serious problem in the company, but when the founder got involved, they shot it down. Very political and in this case, of the bad kind.
I close the podcast with an action.
- Take stock of yourself. Think about who you are, what you want, what you like doing, what gives you energy, and what takes away your energy.
I hope you enjoy the podcast!