Office Politics is about how you fight

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Office politics was the number one issue in my survey of the people on my e-mail list. I get that–you have to deal with people every day and business is social. That means there are conflicts about what to do next and the best way of doing it. The office politics are the things that get most people dissatisfied with their jobs. They point to the politics for the blame.

They should blame themselves.

No matter where you work or what organization you join, how people work together to come to decisions and next steps to take will be present. So the issue isn’t office politics; that will be a constant. The real issue is “What kind of office politics to I like to participate in?”. It is a corporate culture question.

We go for the job, not the corporate experience that suits us best

There is no doubt that in a choice of having or not having a job, having one is better. Yet, we need to strive for a higher corporate experience than just having a job. Having a job often means “not satisfied” with the job. That is a wrong long-term strategy.

The thing is, we spend little time thinking through what kind of work environment suits us best. Instead, we think about our qualifications for doing the work and how cool or not cool the company is to work for. We can even go so far as to look at the logistics of the work–how long is the commute, what are the benefits, and how budgets can get rearranged because of the new job.

We need to know how we like to fight

Unless you are doing extremely repetitive work, part of what a company is paying you is for your corporate judgment on what is happening in the department. Part of what a great manager hires you for is for your experience in business and how things get done. Your analysis of a situation or process and how it can improve.

There are no single or simple answers to business problems. Which inevitably means there will be conflict. High performing teams, in fact, have high levels of conflict. The conflict means they are engaged in the work, resulting in satisfying work.

Yet these high performing teams understand how to fight. The conflict yields better performance and better results. People on these teams know how they react to different types of conflict and know where they both perform and are not intimidated by the conflict.

There will always be office politics

Office politics are not going away. Nor will they diminish. Conflicts at work will stay high because there are no longer easy answers to meeting corporate goals.

The question, then, is not where there is low conflict and little office politics. The real question is understanding how we do best with conflict when working with others. Then finding a corporate culture that matches it.

How do you like to fight?

Photo by DanDeChiaro

  • Office politics, or strategic influence (a more neutral term) won't going away. As matrix organizations become more popular, and a generation composed of authority-weary individuals who want more control of their careers begin to assume positions of power, my guess is that office politics will only become more prevalent. We can only hope that people become more savvy in their abilities to both deal with it and dish it out.

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