Well, 2020 is, among so many things already, an election year. Who are you voting for? Are you Republican? Democrat? Independent? Are you a single-issue voter? What do you look for in a candidate? Around this time, we find ourselves bombarded with robocalls, spam emails, targeted ads and direct mailers, all trying to vie for our attention and votes. That’s just the nature of life during an election cycle. But, do you know what exists no matter the year? What is ever-present regardless of whose term is soon to be up? Workplace politics.
It’s an unfortunate reality that politics exist in any organization. Workplace politics is the process and behavior in human interactions involving power and authority. We tend to hate it, but with some simple foundational tweaks to our perspective and core approach, then there’s a surefire way to navigate them successfully.
At the outset, you have to make sure you do your work with integrity. Author and counselor Henry Cloud likens integrity to a wing on an airplane that is devoid of cracks. Its flight trajectory will not be hindered by rifts or fractures. It’s able to fly successfully and purely in its wholeness. Similarly, if we do what we’re doing with pure motives then we’ll end up faring well ultimately amidst corporate politics. We’re all the more likely to emerge with a strong reputation and integrity intact.
Secondly, it’s best to place things into three buckets: things I can control, things I can’t control, and things I can influence. Politics in an organization tends to fall into the latter two categories. We do not have the power to control, but we can influence and impact it. We can influence how we show up and the importance of maintaining our character in work culture. Identify your values going into an organization. What are your non-negotiables? If you can identify and be firm in these things, then you fortify your integrity and it will help you navigate the internal office politics.
Finally, people respect those who’ve maintained their value system. A principle like, “always being about the good of the team” matters a lot. Folks notice when someone is focused on the greatest outcome for the team. In addition, using a guiding principle from Mark Twain like ‘tell the truth, because then you’ll never have to remember what you say’ does the tremendous heavy lifting in organizations rife with a lot of politics. Keep telling the truth each time. When you’re not trustworthy or honest, then you have to navigate backroom convos and politics to make up for poor judgment.
A subsequent question to ask yourself is if you can speak with a good mix of truth and grace? In other words, you’re a truth-teller, but you’re able to do so without making it feel like a personal attack. Once you’ve become a masterful truth-teller, then you can give difficult feedback but the person feels empowered to succeed rather than personally offended.
If we don’t shortcut our relationships but lean into cultivating our communication in truth and love, then it will help you navigate the politics of any organization!