“The politics here make me want to run screaming from the building.”
“I get an allergic reaction from the politics; I just want to do my job.”
“We spend more time worrying about making some internal stakeholder happy than supporting our actual customers.”
If these quotes resonate with you, you are not alone. As an executive and career coach, I hear countless themes from leaders ranging from the C-Suite to junior level employees who are frustrated about the politics within their organizations. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking,“Politics are everywhere, you can’t avoid it." Well, I call b.s.! Strategists and philosophers call this type of logic a false choice.
Politics exist because we allow it. We enable it. We sweep it under the rug to avoid it. At some point, we have chosen "playing nice" over having a crucial conversation. We have chosen supporting an internal paradigm ("that's just the way things are around here" or "don't mess with so-and-so") over being honest and calling it like we see it.
Here’s the thing: The politics in your team or organization won’t go away unless something changes. It gets worse and more toxic over time. And why should we care? With politics, morale drops. Your best employees leave. Productivity suffers. And the best organizations don’t tolerate it because a culture low on politics gives companies a competitive edge.
So where to begin?
Start with listening. If you are a leader managing teams and/or direct reports, start by asking the hard question you are avoiding around the political culture in your organization. Ask, "What one thing can I do to make your job easier?" If you create a safe and supportive environment, you should find out what or who is getting in the way. Next, address the issue or person(s). Follow through so that your team and direct reports know that you have their back. Check in 30 days later to track progress.
Dealing with politics isn't just a manager's job either. If you are struggling with politics, start by telling your manager the hard truth about the politics that make you want to run screaming from the building. Then provide him/her with three recommendations of how you think you could improve the situation, and what you commit to doing right away to do your part. This way, if you fail to address the issue on your own, you have kept your manager apprised and s/he can engage to help you solve the issue.
With the constant speed of change, increased competition and fight for talent, politics have no place for you or your organization. Stop tolerating it so that you can focus on what truly matters. A 3.9% unemployment rate leaves you no choice.
Audira Labs Leadership Series, “Hey Boss, Have A Sec…?” is a multi-part series focused on common leadership challenges and associated practical solutions. For additional information, please check out www.audiralabs.com.