Politics at work: Let’s talk about it!

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In several discussions I had with some people recently, office politics emerged as the ‘unnamed evil’ in working life. Why? Because we started our discussions with problems we had identified from various situations we faced in our work, and we ended up with same theme: backstabbing at work! Turned out that the problems we were talking about were around the ‘bad’ moves and tricks in the interactions among colleagues. These typical behaviors were considered as indecent, immoral, insidious and malicious; or any other negative attributes you prefer to use in naming them.

Here’s the thing: It is ‘bad’ when we aware about the effect of other people’s behavior, and we consider the effect as negative; that we are the victims of other people’s act.

What if it is our behavior that exerts that kind of effect to other? Will we see it as ‘bad’? Perhaps, we will never see it as bad, because we have all the reasons in the world to justify our act. When we did it, it was a necessary strategy for good. When other people did it, it was backstabbing. I say, it is a matter of perspective, and particularly, it is a perspective of power.

With all due respect, each and every one of us has personal interests; and these individual interests are not always going along really well. In fact, because of the different interests we have in our work, we fight with each other. It is just plain reality. But, it is also reality that in fight, one will be the victor, and another will be the victim. The victor’s perspective will ultimately different from the victim’s story about the fight.

Yes….yes…there is a possibility of win-win solution. I’ve heard that a lot. My only note on that is: How can we create that ideal win-win situation where everyone can get their piece, without acknowledging the power dynamic existing among us? We all have different power and influences with different individual interests, and that’s why we are inherently political. Yes, all of us have power, and therefore we influence the system. Even in our silence, we exert influence. Those who keep silent in the meeting are people who can stall the meeting, right. Those who choose to be silent in the meeting, but highly active in the distribution of rumors are the ones with the most political moves.

The question is: Do we talk about this?

If we are willing to be honest to ourselves, this is a very common situation in the workplace; and yet, we often avoid talking about it. Perhaps we only like to talk about this when we feel we are the victim, like we were just the passive and powerless prey. Perhaps we like to talk about the result, and not about the fight, or the reason why we fight. No matter what the result, every actor in the conflict has power. I don’t think it is accurate to say that only the victor who has the power. Therefore, the result of the fight depends on everyone who was involved.

I believe we have to admit that we are all political agents, and we have all the possibilities to be the victors as well the victims. Then, we can see talk about the political dynamic at the workplace, and knowing how to make it better. What do you think?



8 thoughts on “Politics at work: Let’s talk about it!

  1. this thing help me avoid “backstabbing” as a bad connotation. it happens from the biblical times. (Judas thing) and i think that our parent “proggramed” our brain to forgive as Jesus did. but it was Jesus..blahh..blahh…blahh boring. if we talk about it at work when someone slap u and u give the other part of ur body, i think its stupid.

    but then i look again, could it be why people tend to avoid to fight (even know they have a power) ? becuz what world taught bout it? so..value effect political view too here? and effect how people respond to it?

    1. Great observation! Yes, I believe our value system affects our views on this.
      Most people see conflict and differences as bad things in life, and therefore, should be eradicated.
      It is a very strong and fundamental belief. It can be considered as collective belief, as this has been preserved for centuries.

      Having said that, I’m not saying that politics is always positive. It can goes either way, constructive or destructive.
      My only note is: How can we make it constructive, when we don’t even care (or dare) to talk about it?

  2. Politic at work…..umm….it’s one of reality at our workplace….
    remember, it’s just one of reality at our workplace….
    There is nothing wrong about politic whether it have a destructive or constructive effects at all…
    and there is no one can give some remark on politics whether it destructive or constructive, because we have to be consider that the construction sometimes must be started with destruction….
    and there is one more thing that we should remind that when we give any justification about politics whether it destructive or constructive, maybe we started to play our role as a political being and perhaps it is destructive or constructive….no exception for my comment in this blog…..

    1. Hahaha…..well, I say, it’s just politics. Knowing how to use it, then you know how to put value in it.
      We all are politicians, whether we like it or not.

  3. ehm saya setuju si kalo dak tau politik kita rawan jadi korban, dan kita mahluk politik dalam 1 atau 2 hal

    tapi menurut saya, kerja itu pencapaian, aktualisasi, jadi politik bukan part dari itu..kalo kerja
    mungkin harus ada sistem yang dapat meminimalkan politik seperti
    ada perusahaan yang melarang gosip di tempat kerja…

    tapi tetap saja, setiap orang punya pandangan beda…

    jadi di politik setiap orang selalu punya hidden agenda, rasanya kok kejam banget ya..maksudnya tentu dalam hati kecil kita inggin ada orang yang tulus juga kan…dan memang ada 😉

  4. Hehe….saya setuju kalo kerja itu aktualisasi diri, walau sebagian orang mungkin tak setuju juga dengan ini…..

    Yang menarik, kadang upaya kita mengaktualisasikan diri bisa dianggap sebagai demonstration of power dan political action oleh rekan kerja kita. Nah. memang tidak bisa dibantah bahwa upaya kita mengaktualisasi diri itu kan ya sama artinya dengan unjuk kekuatan, cuman bahasanya bisa aja diganti dengan unjuk potensi dan beragam istilah lain.

    Dan juga jelas, bahwa orang tulus pun juga tetaplah orang yang unjuk kekuatan demi orang lain dengan tulus.

    Justru catatan saya, apakah memang politik dan tulus itu dua hal yang berlawanan? Lihat saja Mahatma Gandhi yang memimpin demo dengan cara damai dan pleasant demi kemerdekaan India. Dia dikenal tulus, dan jelas dia melakukan tindakan politik.

    Saya pikir, framework dan belief yang tertanam begitu kuat dalam bawah sadar; yang melihat politik sebagai sesuatu yang bernilai negatif, adalah masalahnya. Orang-orang yang dipengaruhi belief ini akan selalu menghindari politik karena menganggap politik negatif; atau selalu melakukan politik destruktif, karena berkeyakinan bahwa politik itu memang selalu destruktif.

  5. hahaha….
    politic is all about the way to attain the goal…
    whether it’s called as “ketulusan”, “sebar isu busuk”, “propaganda”, even sometimes it’s formed as “fitnah”, it’s just about the way to attain the goal…
    Pencapaian ataupun aktualisasi juga butuh the way to attain the goal….
    jadi apapun yg kita lakukan untuk mencapai maupun mengaktualisasikan sudah dapat disebut sebagai politik…bahkan org yg bekerja keras menghasilkan sesuatu demi mendapat prestasi juga sudah disebut sebagai menggunakan teknik politik hasil yaitu menunjukkan kepada org lain bahwa dia menghasilkan sesuatu.
    Demikianlah sabda iblis hari ini…..

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