None of us like it. But all of us have to deal with it.
I wanted to touch upon politics, work politics. I will try and coach you through this as much as I can, so keep asking yourself the questions along with me.
Do you like politics?
What does that bring up for you in terms of emotions? What do you like about it? What do you not like about it?
Understand all of those emotions that are coming up? Think about what politics really is.
Want to listen to this episode instead?
What does politics really mean?
The word politics is loaded with wants and desires of the people involved. Whenever there are two people in a room, there's politics. Whenever there are two people on two sides of the podcast, there's politics.
When you are listening to this podcast or read this blog, there's politics between you and me.
Well, if you are listening to me, I hope that we are politically aligned on our desire to get you to a growth mindset. But that is the political alignment that we have. We could very well be misaligned, we could very well not be aligned on several other issues and things in our lives. I could prefer a certain political party, you could prefer someone else. For all I know, you couldn't even care about politics, probably.
And this is what I'm going to say that politics is inherent to how we process information as a society. Politics is how our society runs. And that comes and spills over into the workplace.
Reframe how you think of politics - the microeconomics theory
Once you understand that, once you acknowledge that everyone has desires, wants or needs, you will get so much better at “playing politics”. I'm air quoting because real politics is always a negotiation and both parties are better off as a result.
Once you know what the other party wants, what their deep desires are, you become this magnet for “playing politics”, because you suddenly have the power to agree or disagree with their wants or desires.
And in most cases, if you can give to the person, what they desire the most, whether that be at your work, whether that be at your school, whether that be in a completely different scenario with your family or with your children. If you can incentivise outcomes, you can get the desired outcome.
I always found politics fascinating, because politics is all about incentivizing people the right way and it boils down to some concepts in microeconomics. And it really boils down to behavioural economics, because if I and you want the same thing, we'll try and work together to achieve that.
If you don’t agree with your CEO, quit!
Which is why I personally have quite a drastic statement to make: whenever I don't agree with my CEO or chairman's view of how they want to run the company and where they want to go, I know it's time for me to leave.
If I disagree with the approach that my senior leadership is taking, and their view of the world is, I will leave that company. Otherwise, there will just be a tug of war in your heart, and no one benefits from that.
Which is also why I think politics inherently is a really, really good and a powerful thing. If you can be aligned to your senior leadership's way of thinking, be with that company, help that company grow. You will grow along with that company, or with that team.
If that's not the case, it's probably time to leave. And when I talk about politics, remember I talked about it at a very, very high level - “Do you agree with your CEOs five year vision?”
Most of us don't think like that. Most of us think about our jobs, what we have to do as a data analyst or as a financial analyst, or as the video editor. But for me, personally, this is critical that I align myself with my senior leadership's vision for the next few years. Otherwise, I'm not sure I will be in safe hands, my career will be in safe hands. And, frankly, if I don't even agree with what I want to do, and what the company wants to do, how will I be giving them the best of me? And if I can't give them the best of me, it's probably time to leave.
As a student of Economics I have always looked at work politics in a way that is not adversarial. It is a negotiation, it's about understanding, it's about trust, it's about really aligning your vision to your company's vision. Once I realised that this is what I was doing, I understood why I worked well with some people and not so much with others.
And, you know, sometimes it's been okay to say, “Hey, I disagree!”
Not all disagreements mean that you have to leave.
But some disagreements mean that you have to leave.
And you have to be really good at understanding what your own values are, what those non negotiables are for you. And if you think those non negotiables are being violated by the work politics that is there, and if you disagree, and you have no way to change things around in your current company, I frankly think it's time to leave.
If however, you think that your CEO and you are aligned, and there's misalignment in the rest of the organization, I would say, hang in there. This might depend on how big an organization you are in. But most of the time your CEO, if they are effective, will take a stance on how to change around things to be the way they want the company to be.b they want that vision to be because they want their vision implemented. And if you are ultimately aligned with that vision, there will be a place for you. If you are not, whether it's today or tomorrow, you either will be let go or you will be frustrated out of your mind. And you will want to leave.
So there you go. There were my top tips about how to handle work politics. It sounds harsh, it sounds really dramatic and drastic but I hope that was helpful in thinking about work and the work environment and the politics surrounding it.
And if you are confused about the next step in your career, get the career change blueprint here.