Better Office Politics

One of the big complaints I know of for the business world in general and levied at individual companies is that of the prevalence of office Politics. As someone who talks frequently to professionals in transition and to small business owners, I hear regularly the complaint in one form or another. “The problem with small family owned business is the office politics” “The problem with big corporations is that they are so political at the top”. Or even “I cannot land that client account because of the politics”.


The word is a powerful one with a lot of baggage that kills any interest and at the same time places blame. Its usage carries images of manipulation and arm twisting, there are images of back room deal making going on, and alliances and enemies are defined.

Hand writing leadership and related words on white board as conceptThe words we choose to describe a situation often shape our ability to deal with the realities. Talking about these as “politics” set in motion perceptions and assumptions and will sour our efforts to address them. Only the sickest individuals would voluntarily sign up for a work-life filled with these conditions. But could we please consider switching words?


Relationships bring us just such an alternative; powerful and positive without denying the realities. Both politics and relationships can be either healthy or unhealthy, but we usually have opposite perceptions of each. They both describe the interactions of people in the exchange of commerce and ideas and careful attention to each can yield tremendous success.

Rather than manipulation and arm twisting, we could focus on motivation and persuasion. Being political we may assume each party is using tactics that are nefarious and exploitive. Being relational we expect that each party is dealing honestly and clear cases and benefits are outlined that deliver the desired results. I would rather be persuaded than manipulated – wouldn’t you?

Instead of deal making in the back room, we may choose to work with commitments that are made and kept. Those deals are clearly understood terms and promises by each to abide by those terms. Some deals we may not be included in, but we know that when we get to the bargaining table we have a chance to clearly describe our position (using persuasion) and the resulting commitment is a deal we can both live with.

Finally there are alliances and enemies – or as I prefer to consider them: partners and competition. There are plenty of good reasons to form these partnerships inside and outside of an organization and forming them should not be a destructive act or divisive but one of collaboration. Those enemies are a problems but competition is healthy for all involved.

The Key

Choose to use the better word to consider the world of office politics…er…relationships.  Second, (and regardless of which you engage in) to engage in this aspect of business in the best possible manner. To be ethical and reasonable so that the spirit of the enterprise is one of trust. Doing so reduces stress and is frankly good business.

Given the choice between office politics and office relationships, the latter is healthier and a natural part of good business. Be sure you are not confusing the two when a relationship or deal does not work in your favor. And, in the end – you cannot escape one or the other….so build strong relationships.