“I don’t play politics”: An attitude that will hurt your career growth

Image courtesy of www.unsplash.com Benjamin Child

Have you ever felt incensed that despite your reputation for delivering excellent results, you witness your less-hard-working colleagues or friends time and again getting the promotion, or the opportunity to work on the exciting new project?    Have you also found that lamenting how unfair this is or speaking to your boss about it just makes things worse? 

When I listen to client stories like this, I relate completely to the emotions they feel when they see their sheer grit and hard work no longer pay off as it did in their early career.  It does seem unfair in a world where performing well is ingrained into out psyche, our schools, our institutions and our way of being.   However at senior levels more is required than merely delivering well

 Beneath the righteous indignation is a belief that“playing politics” is distasteful, even wrong.  It is often the people who are not very good at it that label it as such.  Playing politics brings with it connotations of power, conflict and confrontation, slimy self-interest and even dishonesty and scheming. It has got a bad rap because often less able and hard working individuals use their well honed political skills to trump their honest hard working colleagues, too busy and responsible to stop and take note of what is really going on.  Their progress comes at the expense of others or of the greater good, hence the distaste.  However it does not have to be like this. 

I invite you to take a closer look.

Could your attitude to playing politics be hurting your career progression and leaving you feeling stuck, frustrated or powerless? 

Being aware of your own mind-set is a good starting point.  What images and feelings do you associate with playing office politics? The Machiavellian Prince with all the aversion of duplicity or something else?  Whatever images and feelings you associate with ‘playing politics’ are most surely influencing whether you are engaging proactively with one of the realities of organisational life or not.  

What possibilities might become available to you if you changed your image and attitude?  What if you saw it in a more positive light, for example:

  • Getting to grips with what matters most in your organisation; discerning the values and culture? 

  • Advancing a worthy cause? 

  • Understanding others perspectives? 

  • Raising the profile of your team’s contribution to the greater good? 

  • Engaging and influencing stakeholders and building relationships?  

Once you have a better appreciation for your own attitude and mind-set, you will be better positioned to proactively decide if you want to do something about it.  By unpacking what is beneath your reluctance or resistance to engage in politics you will be better able to make choices. 

You can decide if this is more about a cultural mismatch between your values and your organisation’s values, or a skills deficiency on your part, or something else. You can also simply choose to do nothing about it and learn to let the news of others further advancement roll off you like water off a duck’s back. 

However, if it continues to raise strong emotions for you, working with a coach may also be a very helpful next step as you stretch yourself outside of you comfort zone and explore how to succeed better in your current context or find another culture and context which better aligns with your beliefs and style so you can thrive. 

Two insightful articles that you may find helpful are http://bit.ly/1mMvsuc and http://onforb.es/1fzaUFv

If you want to explore your career progress and fulfilment, please contact me for a confidential  discussion on +27 83 202 0111 or veronica@veronicaroyston.com