Thursday, February 7, 2013

Slaying the Politics Dragon

Guest post from Robert Murray (and great advice):

I have been getting an unusually high number of inquiries this week from young leaders asking about office or corporate politics.  One person asked me if I thought they should take a course in it.  Another asked if I thought they should keep their mouth shut when their boss tells them one thing and then abruptly changes their position in a meeting.

Corporate politics, unfortunately, are everywhere.  I have even seen them appear in the most amazing cultures and at fantastically successful businesses.  It amazes me the lengths people will go to “one-upping” a colleague in the workplace.

As a senior leader and former C-Suite executive in a Fortune 100 organization, I have seen some politicking that would make you want to turn out the lights and curl up in the fetal position with a blanket.  Talented, highly educated, supposedly mature adults doing their most evil best to further themselves at someone else’s expense. 

First, let’s talk about why it happens…

Corporate politics happens for a number of reasons.  Operationally, they include leaders competing for limited resources or the culture being one of a highly competitive work environment.  On an individual basis (which is usually the cruelest and one that is a derivative of an individual suffering from an inferiority complex or lack of confidence) politics are played out when there is a burning desire to advance, they want to gain popularity or attention or they want to mitigate threats to their perceived power.  It plays out in a number of ways however the results are always the same.

Thriving in the environment or with the nemesis that is making your life miserable…

First, decide if what you are experiencing is a direct conflict with your personal values.  If it is, you need to decide if this is a place you want to work at.  If leaving is not an option, read on…

1.    Learn the value of “Timing.”  If your boss is dealing with pressure (stress) from another place, you asking for something completely unrelated may cause an adverse reaction.  Always be aware of your timing.

2.    Learn the value of “Optics.”  If there is a budget crunch going on and you propose a new, huge training program that is going to significantly improve revenue, you may be hit with surprise resistance from people that are getting their programs cancelled.

3. Learn to observe, listen and get the “whole picture” before you take a position.  In the world of politics, it comes at you from all places.  When you seek first to understand everything, you can see through the games that may be going on.

4. Respect others and their turf.  Never stick your nose into a team member’s work area if they do not report to you.  Bad form and a recipe for a dust up.

5.  Never, ever gossip or be involved in gossip.  This is the root of nasty, drama filled politics.

6. This is the “Killer App” for mitigating politics…  Be forever positive.  Always talking about other people, departments and ideas in a positive light will ensure that you will be viewed as a team player and a trusted resource.  Your stress level will go WAY down and you will be able to deal with more because you are not suffering from the effects of all the negative energy.

Remember, unless you when the Power Ball Lottery (And that comes with a whole new set of problems), you will have to work for some 40 years.  You need to learn how to deal with politics or work in any organization will not be much fun.

Robert Murray is a Key Note Speaker, International CXO, Executive Turn Around Mercenary and the author of the critically acclaimed book; “It’s Already Inside: Nurturing your innate leadership for business and life success.” You can find Robert at:


leadership training said...

Thanks Dan for posting this article by Robert! I especially loved point 5 and 6. Though I always make it a point to keep out of gossips, it somehow gets me deeper into it!

I can personally vouch Point 6 Being forever positive though hard to achieve works wonders!

Rick said...

I've always dealt with office politics by just being positive and focusing on doing the work I was hired to do. I have noticed that the higher the position at a company, the more politics come into play.