You may love, hate or be totally indifferent to company politics but in actual fact in the real world it still exist and is an essential and legitimate part of the business process that gets scarce resources allocated and more importantly it’s the oil on the many cogs of industry that gets things done.
Psychologist could have extended debates on whether people become political through nature or nurture. I personally take the position that it begins as a natural instinctive ability that is greatly influenced and developed by the nurturing process.
Instinctively a newborn baby knows that if it cries it will get attention and other things that will satisfy its needs. Later as the baby develops and even before it can talk this instinctive political process is further developed and is evident in little grasping hands that point to what s/he wants and if s/he does not get it then all hell breaks lose with emotional blackmail through a bout of heartfelt screams and tantrums. Of course this politically unaware and somewhat devious little monster instinctively knows that having got what s/he wants or satisfied his or her desires then s/he has to reward his or her parents with a big smile, gurgles and laughter for being compliant and giving into its wishes.
Throughout the whole of our lives we live and learn political gaming, firstly within the family environment then at school and college and finally in the work place. Our liking and therefore skill for political games is highly dependent upon the levels of successes and failures that we encountered during our early development years and later through the responses (either good or bad) that we encountered from other people as we developed into adulthood.
If political gaming is something that we instinctively learnt through nature and developed through nurture why is it so frowned upon and its existence denied in the business environment. This problem for the vast majority of people who make up the companies workforce goes right back to their childhood when parents having to deal with their kids demands eventually lose patience and turn around and firmly cut them off by saying no, or don’t argue with me, or say do it because I told you to, or use some other draconian method of gaining control of the situation and inflicting their will on the child. One could rightfully argue that for children even at this very young age, parents using and teaching negotiating and compromising tactics may from a political gaming perspective be in the child’s later life be more appropriate to its future business development and success.
Because of the political suppression by parents and teachers in the child’s early years the vast majority of people have very little skill in politicking and playing the political game and because of this (like the ostrich burying its head in the sand) would prefer to deny that politics and political gaming exist or when confronted with it frown upon its legitimate use.
Any person and especially project managers who are hoping to get on and be successful in business today have to totally unlearn the negative political lessons inflicted upon them by their parents in early childhood and later their teachers during adolescence. They need to relearn the art of political gaming by finding ways to consciously aligning their wants, hopes and dreams not only with their companies objectives as a whole but also through the use of interpersonal skills in building aliances with those key players who not only have influence but also the power to make positive things happen.
With this in mind, the only political game that you don’t play or get involved in, has to be the one that suits your own strategic purpose at the time, and deciding on this, must be a conscious and calculated decision.
One could reasonably argue that in a fast moving modern business the naive person who does not learn the art of political gaming and who fails to keep his eye on the political ball does not really deserve to win.
Recommended Essential Reading:
The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
The Art if War by Niccolo Machiavelli
Discourses in Livy by Niccolo Machiavelli
These and other books by this 16th century author are old classics that are not only good reading in their own right but cover admirably the art of politics and political gaming.
At around £3.00 plus postage they are really a good bargain on Amazon.
Power, Politics and Organizational Change – Winning the Turf Game by David A Buchanan is an excellent up to date read on the subject.
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