Sunday, April 22, 2012

Playing Politics

Being political in an organisation is a strategic move. You have to know who the players are, what they stand for and who is most likely to win in order to choose the right political side. You also have to be very good at the game.

Its a bit like choosing a sporting team. If you’ve ever played competitive sport, you’ll have an idea on who the players are, what strengths and weaknesses they all have, and what kind of loyalty they have to the team.

In social circles, there are politics as well. Every person in the group will play a certain role. Some groups are extremely supportive of one another and some are so toxic and divisive that it’s a wonder they have a group at all.

In the workplace situation, politics can be both positive and negative; it just depends on how its played out. A negative political environment is one where there is a lot of division, backstabbing and gossip. A positive political workplace is where there is career development, open communication and internal support

In my recent organisation, there were strong political plays throughout the organisation and it was difficult to understand who the players were and what they stood for. I didn’t consider this a positive environment, or conducive to retaining good staff. There was a lot of confusion on where the goalposts were and also who the good guys were. My intention is not to be negative about the company - just merely making an observation on the behaviour. Being in this environment where the leaders are actively gossipping, it’s difficult not to join in. It takes a very strong person not to partake in the office gossip. While I was aware of the political nature, I tried to avoid playing the game. Sadly there were times when I was unknowingly roped into a conversation or situation that I couldn’t avoid, and I didn’t like myself very much afterwards. Thats a sure sign that the organisation may not be the right one to remain in.

My current organisation is a small company and there are three main departments where everyone seems to get along really well. Sure its hierarchical, but the leadership is strong and the staff are aligned and have bought into the vision. The direction is clear and set out early on, with all communication transparent and honest. To date I have not witnessed any kind of gossip or backstabbing and everyone seems very respectful of each other. Invitations to social events are open to all and often attended by most. This is not a workplace that encourages hungry ambition at all costs, but allows individuals an open forum to grow gradually. I am yet to identify any kind of political agenda here, perhaps I have my blinkers on?

It's a very good lesson to learn. I have since considered alternate ways to playing the political game and hope to be able to put them into use in my next career.

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