Corporate Politics - In the End, They Really Don't Work

It's been a big time for politics lately - on all sides of the world.

We've had the US midterms, of course, but don't forget about Brazil's elections, the UK Spending Review, the call by Germany for changes to the EU's treaties and, throughout, the G20 is dealing with the so-called currency wars.

We can safely say that, politically, it's not boring.

I have a love/hate relationship with politics - electoral or corporate.  They exist - and because of that they fascinate me and make up a lot of what I have to look at when working with organizations and executives.  That's because in the form in which they exist, they do damage - which ends up wasting incredible amounts of time, money and morale.  Societally and organizationally.

But, as everyone seems to accept (except me, I think), they're just a part of life.  You can't do anything about them.

What led me to write this, though, was a commentary by Christopher Hayes, the Washington Editor of The Nation magazine.  The interview took place on the Rachel Maddow Show - so if any of you are wondering, yes, this was a look at the liberal perspective of what the functional results of the US midterms will be.

The comments that Mr. Hayes made that so caught my attention were at the end of that interview.  He was talking about the diminished number of "Blue Dog" (i.e, conservative) Democrats who were left in the House of Representatives and the lack of power that they will wield now that they are in the minority.

There were two particular items of interest - both of which apply to managers, executives and the decision to play politics.  Because, ultimately, it was all about what you have to lose when you play politics to the exclusion of the larger agenda.

The first was when he was describing the misconception that the Blue Dogs had that their parsing of the issues and their issue-specific voting record was going to play well with the electorate.  As he noted, voters don't sweat those kinds of details.  They group people based on their overarching understanding of with whom they are affiliated (in this case the Democratic Party) and not based on this vote or that.

His most telling comment, however, was:

"In the majority you can be a swing vote....In the minority, no one cares.  I mean, the Republicans don't need Blue Dog votes.  No one needs Blue Dog votes.  And it's truly delusional if the Blue Dogs think that John Boehher (R-Ohio, presumptive Speaker of the House) is going to be knocking down their door for anything.  He does not care.  They are dead to him."

As a result, if the Blue Dogs who are left think that they're going to get anything from the Republicans, they're simply wrong.

And that takes us back to organizational politics and the waste involved in playing games.

There is an agenda for the organization.  It's explicit in the organization's strategy.  The execution of that strategy is the demonstration - by all - that they are in alignment with that agenda.  They may disagree - which is healthy - but they are not going to go against that agenda (and the most senior executive or corporate heads who set it) simply for their own purposes.

You have to fight your corner.  It's your job to do so.  You have to bring the best of what you have to offer in all the arguments you can present so that those with whom you work have the benefit of your knowledge, experience and perspective.

You know things that they need to know so that you can all create success.

But, once the decision is made and a direction is taken, there's no more time for politics or game playing. Because whatever time you're spending on that is being spent - exponentially - by your people who, correctly, reflect what they believe to be your management agenda.

And in the end?  When things change - which they will, because they always do - if you're seen not to be a "team player," just like those Blue Dogs, you, too, are dead.

The cost is far too high - to you, your people, your organization and its stakeholders - to take that risk and waste that time.  Because, just like the Republicans have won the House of Representatives, made great gains in the Senate and are positioning themselves for a White House win in 2012, whatever entity constitutes your organization's primary competition will have that same opportunity.

And then you - and everyone else - will have to worry about being out of a job.

It's not worth it.  Not for a moment of self-perceived gain.  Because the thing that corporate politicians forget is that when they shine, others - in their organization and out - see their accomplishments very clearly.  And that's what they're looking for.  Exactly what you have to offer.

No politics or games required.