I have been privilege in over 12 years of my career as an engineer, consultant & project manager in IT & Telecoms to work in various organizations within & outside Nigeria. One thing that I must say at the start of this discuss is the fact that there is NO 100% perfect organization or work place.
Organizations are set up for different reasons, but they ALL have some things in common like:
The list above is tailored-made by each organization to ensure that the reason(s) for their existence is achieved. Also common in all organizations is what is termed “office politics“.
Organizations are made of groups of individuals ( with different backgrounds, culture, religion, mindsets, goals, objectives, approaches & lifestyles) who come together to work in a rational environment to meet certain laid-out objectives.
Because the human specie is socially wired, there will always be the need to hustle for power, position, recognition, etc. & this is the main reason for politics in the office as well as in the society at large.
I did a Google search on this & I love this particular definition from http://www.mindtools.com : “Office politics” are the strategies that people play to gain advantage, personally or for a cause they support. The term often has a negative connotation, in that it refers to strategies people use to seek advantage at the expense of others or the greater good.
Just like there are 2 sides in a coin, office politics can either be good or bad, but a lot of the times it’s the bad side that comes to the fore where individuals tend to seek advantage at the expense of others.
I have been actively involved in a few of these strategies & power tussles over the years & came out on the other side unscathed.
It’s so sad that a lot of people try to avoid this like a plague & then get to suffer the effects & outcome of such battle in the long-run. In my experience, I have learnt that you need to get involve, but with the proper mindset & goal.
I am not an expert in this field, but I’m just trying to highlight what I have observed over the years & what has worked for me in different situations.
The best office politics that I have seen & personally experienced is VALUE.
Some people might argue against this but I would like to just states some few points to support my claim.
Firstly, its quite important to stress that to be seen as someone of value to the organization, one must have INTEGRITY.
Last year, I took an on-line course on http://www.coursera.org about Leadership ( Better Leader, Richer Life by Prof. Stewart D. Friedman) & it defined integrity as oneness, the ability to remain the same, take the same stand on issues irrespective of the changing situations or circumstances. There is a saying that ” if you can’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”, integrity is the ability to stand, keep standing, keep on standing for something for as long as it takes.
To a large extend, the office politics that I have observed over the years are carried out by sneaking people that just wants to get ahead ( seek relevance) by all means. These people will lie, backbite & back stab others just to get ahead. A lot of them don’t have integrity, they just subscribe to the current ruling government & will sing another song once there is a change of guard.
In an organization where proper observations are made, these people are identified for who they really are & they don’t last long, especially when that organization goes through a lot of changes.
For you to be seen as valuable, you must have integrity.
Secondly, you must have MASTERY.
There is no point getting involved in office politics if you don’t know your onions. A lot of the times, battle lines are drawn during situations like this & you must be an expert in your field or in the area(s) of contention for you to be taken seriously.
In project management, the highest form of authority is your expertise. I have been involved in a lot of projects in which at the onset it was difficult to get stakeholders on board. I was a consultant in the area of mobile data services for 4 years working across Central & West Africa & being a young African Project Manager, it was sometimes difficult to get my colleagues & team members in these countries & from other parts of the world fully involved in the projects until I show the depth of my knowledge.
Then they see that they could learn a couple of things from me that will be beneficial to them. I have seen first hand, how attitudes & dispositions change for the best when mastery is encountered.
Finally, you must have EMPATHY.
“People don’t really care how much you know, until they know how much you care“. Being an expert or highly knowledgeable is great, but it amounts to nothing if you don’t show compassion, especially empathy.This is the feeling that understand & share another person’s experiences & emotions.You must be approachable, open & have the ability to look at issues from the perspective of another person.
The ability to be able to reach across the divide & share perspective is a very powerful skill. It basically weakens opposition & allows for quick resolution. A lot of our politicians in the society lack this very essential attributes, Nelson Mandela’s case easily comes to mind.
Mandela learnt about rugby, the sport of the “enemy” & used it among other things as a catalyst for unity in South Africa.
People tend to look at issues from 2 standpoints i.e. yours & mine without ever exploring the third ( which is Ours), empathy allows for that third option to be explored, people want to feel among, have a sense of belonging especially when it concerns something good & positive.
I have seen from my experience that with INTEGRITY, MASTERY & EMPATHY you become a person of VALUE, an essential member of a team,unit or organization.
This has so much worked for me that even members of opposition hold their hands up & acknowledge the value-add.
I am no expert, but this has been my experience so far in my career, I am open to further discussions on this & would love to get some feedbacks as well.
This is my snippet, I am SHALOMESQ