Understanding Office Politics in the 21st Century Workplace

Office Politics: The Art Of The Possible

Playing politics is like having sex. Almost everybody does it, but nobody is comfortable discussing exactly what they do. We will talk for hours, however, about what other people might be doing. Typically, we use the term “playing politics” only to describe our colleagues’ behavior – never our own. They are sucking up, scheming, and manipulating, but we are building relationships, developing strategies, and opening communication channels.

The above paragraph was quoted from Dr. Marie McIntyre’s recent book, “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics”. And it’s true! When people are placed together in a corporation (or in a family, or a reality TV island), it is human nature to compete for power, influence, rewards, and recognition. How people carry out this competition, and the value individuals place on the spoils, are what we call office politics.

Ignore politics at your peril! A sure way not to get noticed at work is to simply allow the brilliance of your work to speak for itself – unless, of course, your work is winning Nobel prizes or you are single-handedly bringing in millions in sales. And not getting noticed is a sure way to dead-end your career. Ever notice that team players, not necessarily the hardest working, usually have the most influence? It’s totally na├»ve to believe you can ignore interacting and influencing your coworkers and boss and still be a success.

There are always people who naturally navigate through and around the organization to get things done. For those of us not born with a genius for getting along with people, success at office politics can be as simple as being liked without being a phony. You can learn to communicate persuasively, and develop an assertive style backed with facts.

Companies that practice performance management actually place value on their employee’s influencing and communication behaviors, even at the lower levels of the organization. They believe, correctly, that they get the best from their employees when the employee is fully engaged not just with the tasks at hand, but with the company at large.

There are instances where office politics are de-motivating. Gossip can be dangerous. When it’s vicious and personal, it’s almost unethical. If you are involved in a conversation that turns to gossip, you can try to subtly redirect the conversation to more constructive topics. And griping about your boss can be dangerous if it’s later used against you.

Cliques seem so high school-ish. Yet they persist in the office. It’s actually quite natural for people with similar interests or experience to associate with each other, especially if they’ve been through a lot together. If there is a positive culture at your work, the cliques that you might naturally gravitate towards will slowly accept you. Persist with a positive attitude.

Back-stabbing colleagues are one of the worst. They appear positive to you, then denigrate your work or character or steal your ideas behind your back. Dealing with them can be treacherous to your career and only after you’re sure you’re not the problem. From your standpoint, you will be better off practicing office politics in an uplifting, positive manner.

Bad bosses can easily make your work-place seem hugely political. When the boss shows little rhyme or reason, normal modes of communication and influence break down. Innuendo and perception become operative. Facts seem to matter little. You’ll have to choose a strategy for dealing with a bad boss to keep you career.

A company’s culture is defined by the way decisions are made and how influence is allowed to flow up and down the hierarchy – in short, by its politics. Embracing the culture will usually benefit you. And when you do join in, you’ll then have the opportunity to put your own stamp – for better or worse – on the company culture.

Partisan Politics: The Enemy Of Effective Governing!

Have you noticed, it often, appears, the politicians, are discussing very similar issues and challenges, today, which we’ve heard, for decades? All we see, is constant, blaming and complaining, alongside, lots of empty promises, and rhetoric, but little movement, towards making any meaningful changes. While they sometimes make a change, what good is it, unless/ until, it’s consistently, for the better, rather than merely, symbolic, or some political gesture? For many years, we elected Presidents, who were considered within about 5% of the so – called, political middle, and, this created, an opportunity, to come to some, meeting – of – the – minds, for the common good! When an issue, which seems to make, as much common sense, as the recent proposal, to protect women, by limiting access to guns, by individuals, convicted of crimes, related to spousal abuse, and similar offenses, will probably, never, even, see the light – of – day, in the United States Senate, because a specific, major lobbying group, opposes it, it becomes obvious, there’s something wrong! In today’s political climate, when Democrats are the Majority Party, in the House of Representatives, and Republicans are the majority, in the Senate, and we have an unconventional President (President Trump), it seems, nothing ever gets done, which helps, most Americans. With that in mind, this article will attempt to consider, examine, review, and discuss, a few examples, which demonstrate, the harm, it does to our nation, and citizens.

1. Tax reform: Although, President Trump, and his Congressional allies (at the time, both houses of Congress, were controlled by Republicans), promised the so – called, tax – cut/ reform, legislation, would benefit the middle – class, most now recognize, it has predominantly benefited the wealthiest 1%, and larger corporations. The rhetoric promoted, corporations, would hire more people, raise salaries, and all would benefit, the vast majority of this corporate cost savings, went to stock – buybacks, and one – time, dividend payments, etc. Nearly every Republican supported this legislation, while almost all Democrats, opposed it, although, the legislation, has helped cause, record deficits, and few benefits for most of the middle class. If you happen to live in a high – SALT, state, which means, one, with high state and local taxes, the component capping tax deductions, has created, a tax increase for many living in these areas! Does anyone really believe, it’s a mere coincidence, the states, most adversely impacted, are those, which voted for Mr. Trump’s opponent, in 2016?

2. Climate change: The President and his political cronies, for the large – part, have, either denied climate change, or the degree of its danger and ramifications. This President disagrees with the scientists and experts, perhaps, because, he prefers, to favor his personal/ political agenda, and self – interest (such as supporting coal mining, dumping, etc, fracking, in areas, where his supporters, depend on these actions). Shouldn’t our policies be based on common good, instead?

3. The Wall: While nearly everyone, seems to agree, we need to enhance our border security, and public safety, most experts claim, Mr. Trump’s wall, is far more, a symbol, than a cost – effective, strategic direction, to pursue! Couldn’t our priorities, be better used, when his party, is willing to spend billions, on this wall, while doing nothing about infrastructure, fixing Flint’s water supply, and/ or, Puerto Rico’s recovery, from two devastating hurricanes?

Wake up, America, before the ramifications, of the partisan nature of today’s America, become far more negative, wasteful, and long – lasting! Demand your elected officials, proceed, with a combination of idealism, and pragmatism, so our nation, and its citizens, benefit, instead of the politicians!

The Politics of Hair

In 2008 the America tabloid In Touch published a story about Beyonce Knowles wig collection. In the story they estimated that Beyonce’s wig collection was valued at in excess of $1 million. Five years later and she is probably the most famous singer in the world with a much larger collection of wigs, weaves and other fake appendages attached to her scalp, with a much bigger social impact. She is frequently lambasted by pop culture and sociological pundits for buying into the Barbie doll aesthetic and promoting an unreal image of black womanhood. She has been accused of lightening her skin tone, having rhinoplasty and overall changing her appearance from that of a beautiful black woman to that of a beautiful white woman. Above all though it is her hair that garners most attention. Google ‘Beyonce hair’ and of the 105,000,000 hits a large portion of them are debates on whether her hair is real, a wig, a weave and the politics that surrounds hair in black culture. The scion of pop culture may not identify solely as African American (she has more than once stated she has a multi-ethnic background – African American, Irish, French and Cherokee, but the impact of her hair choices resonate through debates on race, ethnicity and feminism.

Hair has never been just something on your head. It is chopped, braided, dyed, spiked, back combed, shaped, plucked, implanted and pretty much anything else you can think to do to it. In pre-transatlantic slave trade West African cultures hair was central to defining culture, status and identity, as it still is today all over the world. The absolute horror and personal annihilation that slave traders inflicted on their human chattel would not have been as effective if culture, status and identity were allowed to continue after people were kidnapped and shipped across the ocean. One of the principle means of dehumanising their victims involved shaving their hair in an effort to wipe out culture and identity. Over time the know-how and ability for personal hair grooming particular to people from West Africans was lost amongst the slave population. In addition slaves didn’t have the hair care products that generally suited their hair type, such as palm oil, and had to rely on other easily attainable products such as bacon grease and wool combs for their hair care.

Hair and skin tone became further politicised when second and subsequent generations of slaves were born. Frequently they were the result of the slave masters raping slave girls and women. Genetics being genetics skin tone, facial features and hair texture clearly identified who was related to the slave owners. Frequently the children of slaves and slave masters were afforded better living conditions (such as living in better houses, better food and so on) and a better chance at making it through what was a harsh existence.

Overtime the politicisation of hair had reached new heights. Emancipation didn’t change much as the more similar one was to the dominant economic culture (white) the easier it was to get on in life. It is in fact estimated that hundreds of thousands of African Americans with light skin tones and straight hair passed themselves off as white and completely changed their identities in order to blend into white society.

The ‘one drop rule’, adopted into law in the 1920s deemed that anyone with even a bit of African heritage would be seen as legally black, and thus subjected to demeaning prejudice in their everyday lives, made ‘passing’ as white an attractive option for those who could. They didn’t have to sit on designated seats on buses didn’t have to use separate facilities, could get better jobs and weren’t abused because of their race. It is hard to know exactly how many people crossed the ‘race line’ but various research projects into ethnicity have found that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of those who identify as white in America have some African ancestry. The same phenomenon has been observed South Africa and no doubt in any other country where one group was repressed to such an extent that it was easier to pretend to be someone else. Hair, skin tone and features became one of the main identifiers in a hierarchy of ethnicity that for better or worse that facilitated easier lives. It might not be as evident nowadays but it is still present and very much a social phenomenon.

The legacy of ethnic hierarchies permeates through American and pop culture to this day. Eurocentric models sell clothes and goods. The Barbie-doll aesthetic is pervasive in music and movies. No doubt Beyonce makes millions from her numerous advertising endorsements where she is styled to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Having long lustrous blonde hair is central to this appeal and central to her bank account. She may define her ethnicity as multi-ethnic and thus it is not fair to label her as someone who rejects her heritage. However, her visual appearance, at least in her public life, would suggest that she identifies a lot more with one of her ethnic heritages more so than the others.

The Eurocentric media that has been pervasive in America is of course changing to accommodate the increasing diversity in American society. With more and more people identifying as multi-ethnic and celebrating their diversity advertisers and pop culture is beginning to represent this. But until the time when all hair types, skin tones and features are perceived as equally beautiful in pop culture the melting pot will be nothing more than an inadequate representation of a society still obsessed with race.