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Beware of “political” attitudes

Translation of the original article published December 21, 2017 on América Economía (Latam)

Some time ago I wrote about being more “political” in our work relationships, since politics can be a great ally in one’s career. But since some people understand the concept in other ways that are not very popular, to say the least, there were many comments both for and against. I found that few have accepted the reality that politics is an inescapable part of life in organizations, especially when they are large or complex.

The problem, I think, lies in that rejection of being more political. Many of us seem to feel practically dishonest at just the idea of thinking in terms of things like perceptions of others, image, power management or relationship strategies. But the concept also includes capabilities like compression of complex situations and of the way organizations function, the ability to think ahead and avoid minefields, to maintain balance and equanimity in a variety of situations, especially those involving conflict.

Obviously it is other people who refer us, hire us, promote us, or fire us, and many of them will make decisions about our future based not just on how efficient, professional, or loyal we really are or what we actually achieve, but on how they perceive us. It is therefore critical to pay close attention to the perceptions that others have of our work, skills, and abilities in all areas of organizational activity—and especially to avoid unpolitical attitudes that can very negatively affect our careers.

Attitudes like feeling indispensable, self-sufficient, or in the right, without looking past the obvious. Not knowing who to trust or who to support. Failing to follow established instructions or policies due to disagreeing with them or for reasons of rebellion or ego. Failing to keep your word. Making demands out of context without realizing the damage they can cause to our relationships, results, or mission.

Overestimating our power or interacting coarsely—or immaturely—with the people we encounter, not reining ourselves in when faced with delicate situations.

It’s wrong when we don’t mind our manners or show the proper respect for colleagues, subordinates, superiors, customers, or suppliers. And it’s also a mistake to act insensitively or discourteously or to create discrepancies and differences between areas, or break up teams with intrigue and pointless conflicts. And it’s probably even worse to be seen as someone willing to do anything to achieve power or personal advantages.

So what to do? We can start by consciously deciding to establish a clear, straight, ethical line and a culture of deep respect for others. And also to develop and maintain better or, better still, excellent relationships with all the people we work and interact with every day. And that means people at every level, not just the “important ones” or those who can have a direct impact on our careers. That decision, properly implemented, will help us to achieve a much easier working life and reduce stress levels.

If we manage to maintain this positive and cordial—but not mercenary—attitude toward others at all times, it will become a relatively simple skill that will help us to achieve better results and do great things for our careers.

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