On Office Politics and Working Together

For the longest time I’ve considered Office Politics to be a bad thing.

It is, after all, widely known as a bad thing. It basically is the intracorporate version of Game of Thrones (but magnitudes tamer, perhaps).

It wasn’t until I snapped one day, after years of misanthropy, when I started to want to understand people. I wanted to know what made people tick. Why do people make the decisions they make? Why do they act a certain way? This is how I found myself taking a few online classes on Philosophy and Behavioral Economics.

Switch over to recent years when I found myself wanting to be in a more leadership-like role. My software engineering skills are still intact and growing, my security know-how still blossoming, and “soft skills” somewhat maturing. I found myself speaking to mentors and listening to conversations about Office Politics. That really did the paradigm shift for me.

Office Politics was defined for me in a different light. It is a neutral thing in itself, an amalgamation of different personalities and work styles, put together in a single environment. It’s a chemistry of sorts, with malleable ingredients that have free will and intellect.

Imagine Office Politics as the process of mixing together a cocktail of progress, with the ingredients being their own mixologists. Common interactions between the “chemicals” could be as concrete as daily communication, emails, 1:1s, and could be as intangible as psychology, behavioral economics, EQ, and the concept of managing up. Likewise, concepts such as gossip, microaggressions, nepotism, and miscommunication may also exist in the mix.

Interactions between individuals may depend on people’s maturity levels, personal goals and ambitions, and work ethic. Some people may work well together, others less so.

For folks to find the right balance and learn how to work with others well is definitely vital in creating a good “cocktail”. Otherwise, we would come up with something to be less desired: our stereotypical view of Office Politics.

Office Politics gets a bad rep because we only see the bad. When it comes to organizations working well together in a state of near-utopia, people tend to call it other things. In my mind, the core concept of working together is the important bit.

In fact, this can probably apply outside the corporate world. Imagine any team, whether it be the girl scouts, a camping trip, or a volunteer group.

This is my challenge to those that want to stay away from Office Politics.

Consider how you work with your colleagues. Imagine the possibilities that you (as a team) can accomplish if you can reach out establish a connection with others. Imagine giving your manager suggestions and your insight instead of just following their directions.

Of course, this is a utopian view where everybody just understands each other and people don’t have flaws. There will be micromanagers, there will be bad managers. There will be tired and jaded co workers. There are ways to understand and work with people, no matter what the context. Sometimes, the answer may even be to call it quits.

No matter what the situation, exercising empathy and strategizing a plan for working with others may make your life/work/what-have-you (and theirs) more fruitful.

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