Politics: Social Relations Involving Authority or Power

The influence of politics, on the relationships we acquire in the workplace, is extremely significant in the development or deterioration of trust. In business today, in order to be successful, individuals must learn to play political office games. I believe that for the most part people want to be honest. However, I also believe that it is instinctual to watch out for our own best interests. So, when put into a situation where we may not agree with the “rules” – we must play along, or we risk not being asked to play again. Exclusion from the trusted group can result in career suicide.

In business you are often asked to “pick sides” so to speak. In doing so, you have the potential to alienate the individuals represented by the “other side.” This often occurs in the position of middle management. The senior leadership team may have a strategy that requires changes that may or may not be favorable for the knowledge workers. In order to achieve your own objectives, which requires the support of the senior leadership team, you, the manager in the middle, have to support the strategy of the senior leadership team at the risk of alienating your performing team. While, it is very important that you voice your concerns in support of your team – you must also know when to “say when.” There comes a point in every situation where you will eventually cross the line, posting your stake on the “opposing” team’s side of the field. Before you step over the line you must decide if your position is important enough to risk the success of all of your other efforts. In my early days of management, prior to learning the rules of the game – I had a senior manager tell me, “Choose your battles wisely, be sure that it is worth falling on the sword for..” I have never forgotten that lesson.

The downside to making that type of decision, depending on past experiences and the relationship you have between those individuals on the opposing team – you may lose their trust for having chosen the other side.

The loss of trust as a result of the the decision may not have an immediate impact. The organizational structure at the time, may provide the necessary leverage to overcome the obstacles created by the opposing team. However, organizational structures quickly change – and you could end up working with or for an individual you chose sides against. Therefore, if you want to survive the office politics – you must be very careful about whose toes you step on and whose back you scratch. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a situation in which you cannot satisfy anyone – because they are all on an opposing team!

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