Plotting a Plan for Managing Office Politics, Conclusion

Ever have one of those days where it felt like the wheels were literally coming off the wagon? Yup, that was my day yesterday. I was working with colleagues to close a deal and everywhere we turned the usual process to move things to conclusion was unbelievably broken. I’m not talking cracked, chipped or chiseled, I’m saying splat, smacked, messed-up busted in all ways up one side and down the other. The mental misery it caused permeated everyone involved, it was like the universe was screaming: “Stop, walk away, it’s not going to happened today!” This was a colossal combination of issues with systems, lack of user knowledge and related tight timelines jumbled into a pile of getting nowhere. Underneath it we had a bit of political pressure in play as well. Perfect.POLITICS wagon broken v2

In the heat of the moment or anytime for that matter, when politics come into the equation, you now have a formula to help you maneuver — A-B-C-D-E – the formula I’ve been sharing over the last several weeks. Ask, Build, Control, Develop and Emphasize. Even on those days where it feels like politics and everything else is stacked against your success, stepping back, taking a deep breath and applying a couple of these elements can help ease you into an improved outcome. My two previous posts covered A through C. Let’s wrap things up and look at D and E now.

D — Develop a strong listening aptitude. Listening judiciously to others yields amazing insights. Conversely, are your comments getting you into trouble and stirring up the political pot? Did you and your mouth inadvertently step into a pile of political goo? Your words unwittingly flowed like a faucet, filling a vessel already overflowing with opinions about who’s dumb, who’s smart and who likes whom. Listen more, talk less. Listening in earnest provides you with an opportunity to observe, learn the lay of the land, let others expose their thoughts, and limits the likelihood you’ll say something you’ll later lament. Slow down, take a deep breath – particularly when you’re in an elevated happy mood or in a deflated gloomy state –catch the current political climate by concentrating on listening and avoid sharing more than you should. TIP – Listening helps you learn and think through political ploys.POLITICS listen

E — Emphasize common goals. Politics in organizations may pull you into situations saturated with controversy and evolve into power struggles. Emphasis on objectives becomes distracted, work effort is diverted to efforts to control others. Attention is hijacked into dealing with who’s in control, insecure or afraid of losing power and influence. Offset the ugly by emphasizing shared positives. Instead of getting into a power struggle with others, focus on common goals for making the company successful and coming out ahead of the competition. Make a point to point teammates toward embracing what you mutually want to accomplish as a group. TIP – Emphasizing shared goals and win-win alternatives will help you rise above political noise.

Another view of company politics is explained through human needs. In a Harvard Business Review article, The Underlying Psychology of Office Politics by Tomas Chamorro –Premuzic (December 25, 2014), the Darwinian view of workplace politics is discussed by psychologist Robert Hogan. Hogan advised the fundamentals underlying business relationships can be summarized in three evolutionary needs or “master motives.” First, the need to get along – this encourages cooperation and enables group-living situations. Second, the need to get ahead — this prompts power struggles in the group among those more willing and able to be in charge, power being challenged, and related internal competition. Third, the need to find meaning or purpose – this references combined knowledge which provides a basis for comprehending the world, making large organizations essential for fulfilling the quest for meaning in life.

When it comes to office politics, are you leaving yourself vulnerable to the whims of others? Wait, I’ll answer that … no, you’re not. You’re going to use the A through E skills outlined above to improve your enterprise environment as you become a better coworker in the process. Ask questions to understand others, build relationships, control emotions, develop listening aptitude and emphasize common goals to protect and promote your professional well- being. Practice – yes, practice — these competencies every day! You may not be able to solve all the issues permeating a practically impossible day described above, but you can certainly strive to help make it better. Take control of your ability to navigate office politics so office politics won’t have the option to control you. *

*excerpted in part and reprinted from Mary Elston management column with permission from Soundings Publications, LLC.

Plotting a Plan for Managing Office Politics, Part 2

Salespeople are everywhere. My uncle and aunt are visiting our extended family for a long weekend. Before he retired, my Uncle Johnny was an awarding winning insurance salesman. Now in his eighties, he is still a scratch golfer and remains a superb sales person too. During one of our usually animated family conversations, he shared with us how he continues to “sell” every day when it comes to getting what he needs or wants … including a seat assignment for his flight to visit us. Make no mistake … he’s got that extra something, a genuine quality, which immediately makes people feel charmed, valued, and liked … all the trappings for being an extraordinary sales person. He’s also a fantastic example of how “you’re always selling something.” POLITICS - golf

Listening to him tell a number of amusing and always insightful stories, it got me thinking. What often tags along for the ride when it comes to selling? Playing politics. In fact, being politically adept is a key aspect of being a successful sales person as well … knowing who carries decision-making power, who influences whom, and what’s important to selected individuals who have the final say as to how things are done. That also nicely carries us into our current discussion, managing office politics. In my last post I provided a simple list of five skills which enable or expand your political dexterity. Here they are again — A, B, C, D, E – Ask, Build, Control, Develop, Emphasize. I’ve already covered the A for Ask component (see my previous post), let’s take a look now at B and C or Build and Control.

shaking hands and business team

shaking hands and business team

B — Build relationships which help you influence outcomes. As you move through political mazes make an effort to network and find friends. Build relationships and allies while avoiding taking sides. Be assertive and confident while respecting others and establishing a platform for your integrity. This means gossiping is a no-no. Don’t get sucked into spreading rumors or unconstructive commentary. Once relationships start to take shape and you build trust with others you’ll have the foundation for resolving conflict, influencing outcomes and collaboratively laboring toward common objectives. TIP – Building relationships across groups also helps you take on challenges and get more done, faster.

C – Control your emotions. When you’re confronted by another person at work it’s often politically and emotionally charged. Like a flash of lightning, your emotions kick in as well – anger, hurt, frustration converge into the urge to give the other person a well-deserved verbal wallop. Thinking about lashing out? Don’t. You’ll regret it. Keep your credibility and character intact by keeping your emotions in check. This reduces the opportunity for others to use your behavior against you. Another bonus for controlling your feelings is it enhances your persona as a mature individual with leadership qualities. TIP – Control your emotions to better navigate political moments, gain control, and diffuse stressful situations.

How well and how often do you consciously work at building relationships at the office? Once a month, once a week, every day? If you do – nice! If you don’t, you’re missing the boat. Every conversation is an opportunity to build a better relationship that will help move success forward and make your labors more enjoyable. How about controlling your emotions? Oh boy. This can be tough but likewise mandatory – even after an incredibly frustrating day or week — emotions must be kept in check. No one appreciates another person’s emotional outburst. What tricks do you use to B and C — Build relationships and Control emotions? Send me your comments! I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks with the next installment to our conversation. *

*excerpted in part and reprinted from Mary Elston management column with permission from Soundings Publications, LLC.

Plotting a Plan for Managing Office Politics

Three, two, one ….it’s Monday morning again! The weekend was too short, your list of chores was too long and your alarm is buzzing you out of delicious, deep sleep oblivion, driving you into another work week. As you’re rushing out the door are you excited or bummed? Do you feel like a kid getting ready to play ball with a bunch of friends or like you’re dragging yourself to the dentist to have cavities filled? POLITICS - alarm clockOur attitudes about our jobs are often prompted by the people we labor with and whether or not our business environment is upbeat and open, depressing and closed off with adversity, or a mix of the two. Take this people thought and layer on another “P” word – politics. How much you enjoy your occupation is likewise heavily influenced by the politics swirling around you. When you’re part of a great people environment it’s a pleasure to go to work, when you’re not, each day can be drudgery.

With the above in mind, are you living the dream or living in fear? If the people and politics are painful or make you feel vulnerable and afraid you can change jobs. If, on the other hand, you are fitting in nicely with most of your cohorts but there are a few rough spots, you may need to become adept at dealing with office scheming. Not interested? That’s okay, you need to be anyway. Even if you don’t want to be CEO, understanding workplace maneuvers can help you steer through rough waters, contribute to your sanity, and enable your success. Let’s talk about major skills which enable or expand your political dexterity. Remembering these five talents is easy – think A, B, C, D, E – Ask, Build, Control, Develop, Emphasize. POLITICS questions

A — Ask questions to gain understanding of others political intent. Ever have a colleague attack or discredit your efforts? How did you react? The best reply is to defend yourself, right? Wrong – it may be an automatic response but not the best one. The preferred option is to ask questions as to what may have caused the attack. Be inquisitive. Redirect your energy toward understanding politics in play and what is motivating the other person’s behavior. Manipulation among professionals is based in fear, greed and power. Is the attacker afraid of losing control, looking bad in front of others, or exposing their insecurities? Asking questions helps you understand what prompted their fear, how you can neutralize it and become friends. TIP –Your inquisitive manner makes it easier for you to understand others — more important than them understanding you.

With the Ask element now ingrained in your brain, you’re on your way to gaining fresh political savvy. Of course, there’s more … join me next time and I’ll share the details. *

*excerpted in part and reprinted from Mary Elston management column with permission from Soundings Publications, LLC.