It was far easier for you as civilized men to behave like barbarians, than it was for them as barbarians to behave like civilized men.
– Star Trek: Mirror, Mirror
You’ve no use for it, right? All that office politics. Just ignore it, do your job and let the rest of them play their silly reindeer games. Right?
I’m no fan of office politics. I most enjoy working with people who eschew hidden agendas and turf wars. When managing teams, I try to be as transparent as possible. It doesn’t mean I won’t attempt to influence my team. I once offered free soda to my employees. As much as they wanted. We stocked it in the refridgerator in the break room.
Was I doing it to be nice? Not at all. I just knew that if I stocked Diet Coke, my lead programmer would give me an extra 30 minutes of work per day. Rather than walk to the corner store for his caffeine fix, he’d get it and go back to work. The thing is, I told him exactly why I was providing the free soda.
Rodney, you’re the only manager I’ve ever had that didn’t just manipulate me, but ADMITTED to it, and I STILL let him!
You would think I’d complete reject office politics. I would like to, but unless you work for yourself and have only yourself as a client, you cannot avoid it. If the rest of the company is playing politics and you refuse, I can predict what will happen. Within a very short amount of time, you will be manuevered out of your position and probably the company.
So, “if you can’t beat them, join them”? Give yourself totally over the petty politics?
No. You need to find a middle ground. In that middle ground, you have to make sure you defend your position, take credit for your successes, don’t let other teams or managers harm your team. At the same time, you need to do everything you can to create an environment where the cancer of the gossiping and backbiting cannot get a foothold. Be accountable. Own your mistakes. Be as transparent as possible. Give credit where it’s due. Especially, if it’s due to the office-politics player. Give him credit when he’s earned it. It actually helps protect your team from him taking credit that isn’t his.
In one of my favorite Star Trek episodes, four members of the Enterprise crew get swapped into a mirror universe. Except in the mirror universe, it’s everyone for themselves. You get promoted by killing your superior. We watch our heroes try to navigate a universe where the rules are kill or be killed. Eventually, they manage to switch back. Spock, who remained in the normal universe, informs the captain that he immediately locked the “mirror universe” crew as soon as they appeared. Kirk wants to know how he managed to identify them so quickly.
It’s possible for a civilized man to act barbaric if necessary. The opposite is impossible.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved