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When can office politics be good for business?

- January 6, 2021 3 MIN READ
office politics

Let’s play a word association game for a quick moment using the following word – POLITICS. Where did you immediately focus your attention? Was it to the positive or the negative?What were the words that triggered something in you immediately? asks Mark Le Busque.

Here are a few that are shared in the conversations I’ve entered into recently with clients:

‘Gossip’, ‘Awkward’, ‘Child-Like’, ‘Mind Games’, ‘Boys Club’, ‘Collusion’, ‘Win and Lose’, ‘Fractured’, ‘Deception’ and ‘Stay Away’.

Is it surprising that when quizzed about office politics, the majority of humans categorically state that they don’t want to get involved? Who wants to build a reputation as a political player or even worse a political animal?

What if we took a more ‘glass-half-full’ view on the concept of office politics?

What if politics could be good for business? Have I lost my mind using the words ‘politics”, ‘good’ and ‘business’ in the same sentence?

Not according to authors of ‘Survival of the Savvy’, Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman, who explain a ‘high-integrity’ political game that we miss due to the ‘death by association’ we create when the ‘p’ word is used in a business sense.

Brandon and Seldman argue that you are at more risk if you are not both aware of the two types of politics (high and low integrity) and participate in the political games that go on daily in organisational life.

They define organisational politics as – “informal/ formal, unofficial and sometimes behind the scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organisation, increase power or achieve targeted objectives.”

Let’s focus on two areas that most businesses are facing every day and can turn into positives by simply changing their mindset on what politics stands for.

  1. Identifying the Influencers

my suggestion is to open your eyes and look for the unofficial organisational chart. These are the humans who seem to have a say without the title and are regularly approached for their views on critical topics. As a manager, these people are invaluable to identify. They can help to get a message across in the business as they have been able to build power without a title and trust in the way they go about their day-to-day interactions with other humans. Ever hit a brick wall through the middle of your business when introducing a new process or some change? That’s because the influencers are not on board with what is going on. Open your eyes and ears, and you will quickly find out who they are. Who’s sitting with who in the lunchroom, or who seems to be referred to in conversation even when they are not involved.

  1. Combat the Cliques

his is the ‘dark side’ of politics and something as a manager you need to jump on pretty quickly before it becomes like an unwanted virus. Cliques cause employees on the outside to feel like they are less important or worthy than those on the inside and prevent true collaboration. The ‘meeting after the meeting’, ostracising others, back-stabbing, negative speak and rumour spreading are where these cliques thrive. The role of the manager here is to get in amongst these pockets of low integrity politics and work to minimise their time to infect others. Be aware of the formation of groups and where possible break them up and watch the virus lose its hold.

Before you go all negative on the term politics, it would be useful to step back and imagine if there was both an upside and downside to office politics.

Reframing politics will help you and your business succeed.

Get in the game and don’t spectate – your people are counting on you to do so.

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