The Frustration of Politics.

   I believe politics, in this context organizational not legislative, boils down to a self-centered point of view.  First, I must clarify my definition of politics in this regard so we are all on the same page.  When I mention organizational politics, I mean that a group of people are struggling to communicate and therefore unable to achieve the overall goals for the company or group. Why is that? Because each person in the group has his or her own needs, wants and tasks to complete.  Everyone is ultimately looking out for his or her own priorities. While it is true that certain individuals are willing to put others’ needs first or sacrifice for the good of the team, the chances of having an entire team made up of such noble people is rather rare.  Enjoy it if you have that opportunity!

Many times when businesses talk about politics in their organizations, it implies someone (maybe someone in upper management) may get his or her feelings hurt or be effected personally by decisions or projects.  In order to avoid dealing with the consequences of hurt feelings or snubbed projects, leaders may have to tread lightly. So what does that mean and what happens to the rest of the team?

To be fair, when a leader is trying to be political in this context, is does not always translate to a bad thing. Political discussions may also equate to tactful discussions or mediating a problem for the benefit of everyone.  Political in that regard may actually be beneficial.  However, many times, people are so worried about being ‘politically correct’ that they are unable to accomplish goals.  Think about a time when you tried to please everyone in a group.  How well did that work out?  The truth is we all have different ideas, motivations and needs.  When leaders try to appease everyone, the outcome is rarely truly satisfying for the whole group.  In fact, I equate the effort of being politically correct with decision paralysis.  If leaders try so hard not to offend or upset anyone (like many legislative leaders try for votes) then how is it possible to get anything done?  I submit leaders are essentially stymied if they continue on this path. While we don’t have to be mean or cruel purposefully, leaders have to be ready to handle hurt feelings, conflict or rejection by others of their team.  On the flip side, leaders have to be ready with thicker skin and a higher vision when others approach your team with less than ideal options.  By using data, documentation, planning, a pragmatic view of the big picture, and above all – communication – I believe we can move past politics and get into accomplishment.

Lori Buresh

CEO, The Professional Development Team


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  1. #1 by Wayne Gaede on May 6, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    This is so true! One of my favorite quotes (some say from Abarham Lincoln, but it sounds like Benjamin Franklin) is “The surest way to please no one is to try to please everyone.” You are right on target that the successful manager recognizes that everyone has their own agendas, but still gets everyone (hopefully) to subordinate their own goals to the goals of the organization.

  2. #2 by Bob Pepple on May 7, 2013 - 10:52 pm

    Trust me…no smart employee today subordinates their own goals to any organization… that is something that existed in the far distant past when Companies treated employees as their most valuable asset and earned their workers loyalty. Those days are long gone and I see little hope of them ever coming back given the management style of most American Companies. As long as the worker feels his basic needs (agenda) are not getting fulfilled he will never fully subordinate his goals to the goals of the organization. Especially when they see the goal of the organization is to continually increase the pay gaps between upper management and the worker. The leveling off of workers pay for the past 10 years while management pay increases sends a signal that tells workers what the Company’s culture is really about.

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