When we think of the word ‘politics’, we can’t help but think of political rallies, scandal and confrontation. Regardless of which side of the political divide you identify with, as a nation, politics has a very negative connotation.
Of course, the word ‘politics’ means so much more than whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, and who’s currently coming out on top on Capitol Hill. Politics can also describe ‘the complex or aggregate of relationships of people in society, especially those relationships involving authority or power.’
As you head up the corporate ladder, or any organizational structure, you’ll almost certainly find that, the higher up the chain a person is, the less they tend to take part in what I’d call ‘negative politicking’. Negative politicking is where the overt ‘back stabbing’ occurs. I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of this in our work lives – where people drop hints about peoples’ shortcomings or mistakes, where people form ‘cliques’ and gossip behind others’ backs. People who are inexperienced in organizational dynamics have often yet to learn the inherent risk of tattle tailing, or talking someone else down. They hold the mistaken belief that by knocking down their competition, they will rise. This is a great shame because; in the words of the old saying ‘no-one likes a tattle-tale!’ In these sorry situations, it’s rare for anyone involved to come out the other side looking good.
The people who do succeed are the ones who have learned the skill of positive promotion. Put another way, they don’t waste their time digging around for negative things to say about others. That’s the behaviour of those at the lower-end of the organizational structure. Instead, they devote themselves to working together with others and doing positive and constructive things for those who deserve it.
What I’m talking about is positive politicking. In the same way as people who partake in gainsaying gossip soon find that the negative connotations can rub off on them, the power of positive politicking works in exactly the opposite way. If you ‘talk up’ a colleague’s strong points, those positive qualities will become subconsciously associated with you.
As an example, in a group a people who are working together, a valuable project comes available, and one of those people is given the project by another person that they’ve worked with. This visible project is not only a reward for excellent prior work; it can be the direct result of positive relationships built with the group’s leader.
This is a reality in organizational America, whether it’s corporate or not. What we need to do is to get ourselves into the position where we can award that kind of positive visibility to other people, as we will ultimately be a beneficiary of it as well.
We need to put ourselves in a position where we can make positive opportunities available to people within our organizations, as regularly as possible. ‘Paying it forward’ comes back tenfold for people who do it for the right reasons. This isn’t just a strategy for projects, it can be as simple as complimenting a job well done to senior executives. The old proverb ‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar’ is still around because it’s true. People appreciate recognition more than just about anything, and sincere, unselfish and altruistic behaviors are noticed, and rarely go without reward.
We rarely forget the time we were put in an uncomfortable position or publicly embarrassed in an organizational setting. It breeds resentment and people have long memories when it comes to things like that – they’ll be reluctant to help that person for a very long time. However, the reverse is also true. I’m sure every one of you can think of time when somebody did something good for you and your career and how much you appreciated it. Because of that, how much more likely are you to help that person out in return? Well, this is the way positive politicking works, and it’s how we can make our own luck in our workplaces.
So, make a deal with yourself to avoid taking part in negative politicking. Ratting people out for honest mistakes can often make you look worse than the subject of your criticism, and can appear childish, petty, and automatically identify you with the lower end of your organization – hardly a position you want to put yourself in! Besides, how many times have you seen someone talk someone down, and wonder whether they’d say the same of you if you weren’t there – it erodes trust and relationship.
What we want to do is do positive, uplifting and inspiriting things for other people in our organizations. In this manner, we can further the aims of the organization, and find some luck in it for ourselves by associating ourselves with success.Tags: corporate ladder, inherent risk, mistaken belief, negative connotation, organizational dynamics, organizational structure, Oxymoron, political rallies, politicking, tattle tale