Office Politics. You want to think that it doesn’t exist but it does.
When I tell people that I help people help others navigate the rocky shoals of political the politics in organisations, a very large percentage of them say:
I don’t play politics…
The very woman who first engaged me to train her stuff in political acumen told me she didn’t play politics. And yet politics is important. Very few people believe there playing, but they are there are so many injuries, a flawed leader board, and retired ball players ready to jump back in and get their hands dirty again.
Here are seven things your CEO won’t tell you about office politics. Seven things you are better off knowing.
1. It is everywhere
Politics exists because we care. While the movies and TV world would have us believe the contrary, people who care don’t just breed happy families and kind workplaces. They also breed unhappy families and unkind workplaces.
The issue is in caring.
And I’m not saying you shouldn’t care. You should. You need to be in a place where what you care about is aligned with what other people care about.
Fran is all about efficiency. She is fighting for a better, more efficient tomorrow. Because we can afford to do more if we are efficient.
Maxine and Fran are always at loggerheads because Maxine cares more about worker participation in decision-making. Where that isn’t efficient then she and Fran either clash or run political plays so they don’t have to clash.
At least in this case politics is a way of avoiding conflict, but it ends up causing conflict too.
If there is more than one agenda and more than 2 people then politics results.
So it is everywhere. Wherever someone cares about something and their colleague boss or staff care about something different, there’s politics.
2. Even not playing is playing
All those young innocents who say they won’t play or don’t play are either oblivious, or being used as pawns in someone else’s game. Maybe you can stay off the field of politics but when you don’t know where the field starts or ends or what the game is then you can find yourself picnicking in a big green fields in where a rough game of rugby is in progress (watch out!).
3. We all play
Anyone who is pleasing a client, trying to mind read their boss, or getting a colleague to help them on a deadline is playing politics.
Just sometimes we think we are just being kind.
Or doing the right thing.
Or just doing a job.
Politics is caring about your job, your boss, your reputation, your products, the quality of your customer experience, the quality of your work.
So we are all playing when we care.
4. The unwritten rules matter
Every organisation has unwritten rules. Rules like no one listens to anyone who doesn’t outrank them. Or Research is king. Marketing trumps sales. Sales trumps Warehousing.
These are unwritten rules because no one needs to write them down.
The unwritten written rules make your organisational culture.
Contravening the unwritten rules is how you make a political faux pas.
5. Not all the important people have titles
The CEO has coffee with the head of marketing every morning.
The head of accounts is the marketing guy’s sister-in-law.
The receptionist plays squash with the CEO’s administrator.
People are connected.
Titles matter. But so do connections. Connections are how we build agreement on what we care about and what we care about is what counts in politics.
6. You cannot trust your boss.
You cannot trust your boss.
And you can trust your boss.
Just being your boss doesn’t make them trustworthy. Their values, what they care about, and how that lines up with what you care about, that’s what makes them trustworthy.
Remember that our values change over time. If there’s a choice between feeding their family and feeding yours most bosses will choose their own.
7. There’s more, they just won’t tell you what it is
You have to watch. that will give you the 7th one…
For more articles on office politics, click here.