Office Politics

Shawnee Love   •  
October 12, 2012

Wikipedia defines workplace politics as: “The use of one’s individual or assigned power within an employing organization for the purpose of obtaining advantages beyond one’s legitimate authority. Those advantages may include access to tangible assets, or intangible benefits such as status or pseudo-authority that influences the behavior of others. ” It goes on to state that “Office politics has also been described as “simply how power gets worked out on a practical, day-to-day basis.”

These definitions put a positive spin on politics in organizations and gloss right over the negatives, i.e., that sometimes politics seem more like schoolyard bullying or are nasty manipulations instigated to hoard power and/or stick it to colleagues.

In my experience, office politics are not just about obtaining advantages for oneself, but also about reducing the available advantages for other employees.  When called on this behaviour, the office politician rarely has a rational answer for “why are you playing politics?” other than:

  • Because I can, or
  • Because I don’t like that person, s/he rubs me the wrong way.

Do you see what I mean about schoolyard antics?

Office Politics, the negative, time wasting, energy sucking manipulations for hoarding power, do not exist in great teams.

Let’s ponder that for a moment.

Yes, individuals in strong teams do seek to influence each other and yes they do seek advantages and resources for themselves or their groups because they think those resources will be better used on them, but this influencing and persuading is done in the open and without tearing others down.

However, countless companies ignore, don’t recognize or put up with their in-house politicians and many so called leaders seem to cultivate them.

Come back next week and we will look at how you might recognize politics in your organization.