My friend drives (races) horses, so I’ve learned a lot about the industry over the years.
A few years ago, I asked him why horses wear blinders when they race. The answer was more complex than I thought.
A horse is a very emotional animal, they spook easily.
Their eyes are on the side of their head, so they can see pretty much all around them…which is good for locating danger.
Horses get distracted easily, too. Without blinders in a tight race they would see people, carts, and other horses all around them, which would cause them to lose focus and quickly fall out of the race – performance would drop drastically.
In office politics, the same can happen to us over our career.
There are always favorites. There are always brown-nosers. There are always brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends or whoever in line for the next position.
Whether you’re in government or private industry, it’s all the same.
So what do you do? How do deal with office politics without pulling your hair and sobbing a river when you go home at night?
Here’s my take:
1) Accept that it is a fact of life – and plan for it (reduces stress immediately)
2) Be firm and confident in your interactions no matter who it is (shows integrity, earns respect of the important people)
3) Be flexible, but be you (meeting needs of different personalities without sacrificing who you are indicates leadership competencies)
4) Get out (if you truly can’t stand it, even after implementing the first three, move on to the next organization…or become a consultant and work under contract)
Changing your organization will work for a while, but you’ll be right back into it eventually. Its human nature.
Going out on your own won’t totally shield you from it, but it will enough to make it bearable…
…and self-employment comes with it’s own set of problems.