But I Don’t Want To Play Office Politics

by | May 16, 2023 | Thought Piece Series | 0 comments

I’ve said it. My husband has said it. Most of my clients have said it.

You’ve said it.

You don’t want to play office politics.

You don’t want to be involved in the game playing, one-upmanship, back stabbing, climbing the ladder, doing whatever is needed to get to the top.

You’re here to make things better. Better product. Better processes. Better code. Better strategy.

You’re here to make an impact, Do something meaningful. Enjoy your work. Be good to your colleagues. Collaborate to get a better result.

Yet in the workplace, there’s politics. Ranging from the annoying, through incompetent, to the petty tyrants. Playing games, wasting time.

And you’re done with it. Maybe you’re thinking about quitting. Moving on to somewhere else where there are no office politics.

Sorry to break it to you but every organisation has office politics. You can’t escape it.

So what are you to do?

First, watch Ted Lasso. Such a great demonstration of defining your own leadership style, and committing to it.

Second, take a lesson from the total football episode.

In that one Ted comes up with a completely different way of playing the game, which happened to be Total Football.

When the Dutch came up with total football they were still playing football. They just came up with a totally different way of playing the game (pun totally intended).

They saw the game and thought that it doesn’t need to be this way. So they changed the way of playing.

It’s dynamic, exciting to watch, and created great results. It also required training and a new way of thinking about the game, the players, and the positions.

But what about work?

Office politics will always exist because it’s basically describing how people are behaving in this environment.

And if you just step out and refuse to play, you give away all your autonomy. And if you’re anything like me, you don’t like being told what to do, and it’s impossible to sit by and watch and do nothing while others make a mess.

So I’m asking you to decide how to play.

Like my Julio did (clearly not their real name but definitely a real person).

I haven’t met another person more dedicated to not playing politics. The CLMs (career limiting moves) they made because of their courage and integrity, oof. Juicy, exciting, deserve an applause. Always the right thing to do. Not always appreciated by the other players.

There was often a personal cost.

Which pissed me off because here was someone doing the right thing, and being cast as the villain while self-serving players who destroyed moral, and cost the company business were being praised and rewarded.

Politics sucks.

When Julio decided how they wanted to do the politics with integrity, with focus on bringing people on board, with their own style of leadership, they still made juicy, exciting, deserving of applause moves.

But without damaging themselves in the process.

They helped the organisation shift in their behaviour, at least in their dealings that involved Julio.

And wholesale change starts in small groups.

So if you want to have an impact at work, make the world a little better, you have to play. But you get to decide how to play.

So how are you going to do workplace politics?

This is part of my Thought Piece Series, where I explore topics related to leadership and provide both answers and questions. My intention is to start meaningful conversations that help us move forward. Want to connect? Click here.

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