Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 16
When I first entered the corporate world, I was under the illusion that I was above politics. I did excellent work, and thought that data and passion for the customer would carry the day. I explained my philosophy to a new mentor over lunch, at a time when I was looking for answers to my crazy life. I think my exact words ended with “I don’t play politics because I don’t need to.”
He laughed. “Ok,” he said after taking a sip of coffee. “You may think that, but I assure you that others in the organization don’t think that way.”
Boy was he right.
If you’ve made it this far through the book, you probably realize that I’ve grown up quite a bit since then. On some level, I knew about the people who I now call Foxes, manipulators only out for themselves. But I failed to recognize that sometimes a Fox has power, and makes getting more power a priority. (In this post, I share an example of A CEO firing someone for being manipulative.) I, like many others, viewed politics as inherently manipulative and bad.
Eventually, I woke up to the reality that politics exists in every company. In good companies, politics revolves around competition between groups for resources, or differing views on business strategy. In unhealthy companies, politics is about ego, empire building, and gets very very personal.
By not playing politics I was abdicating some of my power, and thus unable to effectively do my job or set boundaries around my home life. I was severly under-gunned when I was attacked by a powerful Fox.
Politics is a tool, and like any tool can be used for good or ill.
As a prelude to the next post, I highly recommend this video. Harvard Business Review authors Kent Lineback and Linda Hill champion the why and how of using politics for good purposes. A bit dry buy very informative, especially the first few minutes.
What is your experience with office politics?