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?