Plotting a Plan for Managing Office Politics, Conclusion

June 4th, 2016


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.

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