I walked into the conference room with my report. My boss had praised the strategy I had developed for the brand I was working on. It was the flagship brand of the agency and I took pride that he approved it without edits.
The room was packed with the creative team and the boss’s boss. I took my seat and before I could begin, my boss took over and began discussing my strategy. As he spoke, I found his tone changing. He was picking holes in it. I was shocked. Perplexed. What’s going on? Last evening, he was filled with praises. What happened between then and now? The creative team sniggered and laughed. The boss’s boss felt that time was wasted. I looked at my boss, enquiringly. I tried to interject, however he wouldn’t let me speak. I realised I was being annihilated. My thinking process, ridiculed. My understanding, belittled. The toxicity in the room singed my soul. I was hurt and angry.
I could smell the breath of politics in the room. This may have happened to you or someone known to you.
POLITICS – A word that we all abhor had me in its tightening clasp. I cringed and retreated. Not knowing what to say or how to react.
When the meeting concluded, I found myself shuddering with pain and the tears flowed, relentlessly.
I put in a call to my friend. She said, “Girl, shake yourself. Stand tall. Get back that voice and speak. Importantly, observe!”
“Speak what? Observe, how?” I replied.
I sat back and reflected. My boss had never quite liked me. It was evident from the first day of the interview. And, at the meeting, he found the opportune time to hit me with all he had.
What could I have done? I asked my friend.
Be political, she said. I hate politics. But she stressed, that politics is everywhere. The degrees vary.
Come to think of it, I only saw my life as black or white. Good or Bad. Right or wrong. There are the many shades of grey in between. Myopically, I had refused to see them.
There will be people who hate your guts. There will be people who hate your confidence. There will be people who want to be like you, they can’t, so they detest you for who you are. There will be people who hate the fact that you have it all. More so, if they perceive you have had it easy, you are easy game. There will be people who will hate your affluence or the way you connect so easily with people you meet. There will be those who will be affected by your ‘attractiveness’. You will be picked because of your gender. You will be picked because you’re ‘luckier’. And, you’ll have to deal with them and the games they play to maraud you and your self-esteem.
You may scream, “It’s not fair!” It doesn’t matter whether your organisation is big or small. When there are two or more people, the power struggles will emerge.
Office politics is a part of the work environment. Political people apply strategies to gain advantage or for support to move up the hierarchical ladder or for personal gains. You might not want to believe it, but it’s impossible to escape it. Everyone wants something – money, status, power – and people will employ a number of tactics in the attempt to get what it is, that they want.
You cannot avoid it, so learn how to embrace it. In fact, the higher you climb, the higher is the intensity.
It’s toxic and corrosive for an individual as well as an organisation.
Get sucked or raise your head higher, skilfully. Having political intelligence is what will keep you afloat.
Who are the perpetrators of politics?
- The Complainers – they are always unhappy about things and their respite is to speak about it, negatively instead of stepping back and looking at the situation, objectively. They suck away the positivity around them.
- The Gossipers – they love creating stories and a Chinese whisper from them can pierce the environment with the sharp blade of the intentional untruth.
- The Sandbaggers – they thrive on sandbagging those who they feel threatened by, by their passive aggressive behaviour.
- The Confronters – they use their strength – mental and physical – to overpower the meek. If you succumb, you’ll be engulfed into their bullying.
Use politics to play smart by handling it deftly.
- Be in awareness of what is going on and avoid contributing to the politics at any cost either by way of gossip or complaining. Keep the gossip to yourself. Confidentiality is a myth so don’t expect people will keep their word.
- Walk away from the perpetrators saying, it doesn’t interest you as you have a life/business goal that needs your attention, to be fulfilled.
- Be exceptional at what you do. While others are plotting conspiracies or engaged in conference room combats, you should just keep extending your expertise. Focus on your work and deliver your best. Your work will speak for itself.
- Be tactful while providing feedback. You don’t have to call a spade a spade. And, do NOT take anything, personally either.
- Recognise others who work for or with you.
- Build visibility with your achievements. Ensure you are managing perceptions of the boss. Sometimes, you need to display your victories, a tad overtly.
- Be helpful to those who seek you out. However, learn to say ‘No’ tactfully in case you feel someone’s thrusting their load on you.
- Rise above any interpersonal conflicts and confrontations.
- Be a model of integrity and command respect with your deeds and words. Stay true to your values and lead by example.
- Treat others with respect.
Politics is stirred up by drama created by perceived competition and the inability to see the humour in things. If you think you can please all people, you’re mistaken.
Pleasing those that matter and those you work closely with is half the battle won.
It’s your political skill in assessing the political scenario, building relationships, creating raving fans of your work, cutting negative play with humour that will help you skirt the politics.