The reason I decided to write about corporate politics is actually very simple: I am both angry and disappointed at seeing very talented women leaving their jobs because they are fed up with corporate politics.
Recently, I had two good friends who quit their jobs because they were tired of corporate politics. So instead of playing big and climbing the corporate ladder they decided to quit and find a so-called “less stressful role”.
Whilst I think everyone should do what they think is best for them, I also believe that there is a fundamental issue with how we women look at and deal with corporate politics. A particular problem appears to be that we think we cannot handle the stressful corporate environment alongside family life.
Probably, there are also many other reasons why women “lean out” however, I do think one of the big contributors is corporate politics.
Furthermore, more than corporate politics itself, which will most likely never go away, the main issue is how we deal with it. We have not been taught how to play corporate politics and hence we start questioning the purpose of playing this “dirty game”.
Well, for me personally, I have come to the conclusion that it is worth playing the game because if we want to have any chance at all of changing corporate politics we have to beat the top players. We need more women at the top to change how politics is going to be played. If we lean out in the middle of the game we won’t change it.
Is our mindset our biggest enemy?
My opinion is that our mindset and the way we look at corporate politics are our biggest enemy. We need to change the mindset around corporate politics and ask ourselves what is the main reason that we see it as a negative thing?
I also used to hate corporate politics and for a long time I thought that hard work would be the only thing which would get me ahead of my career. However, luckily for me, I surrounded myself with mentors and coaches who helped me realize how blind and naive I was being.
Personally, I think the biggest challenge is in our mindset. Many of us still view corporate politics as something immoral, sleezy, wrongful, etc. Furthermore, when we see other women play politics, instead of admiring these women and asking them for help/advice, too often we are disgusted by their behaviour and we accuse them of doing something bad.
From my personal experience, I can say that I had a wrong approach toward corporate politics for too long or perhaps I should say I had the wrong mindset. Back in the day and even nowadays (I admit) sometimes I still say to myself “I just want to work hard and be judged by the work I deliver and not by the politics I play”. But then I also quickly recognize that this is coming from wrong beliefs I have about politics.
When I think back, I would often complain to my mentors about how I hated corporate politics and that I do not want to play it, as it is not important and I will be recognized by my hard work and my impact on the business. Because back then I thought this is the only FAIR and RIGHT thing.
Luckily for me, at some point my mentors had had enough of my complaining and told me I need to change my mindset from hating politics to enjoying it and even learning to love it! I thought that no way was this ever going to happen. And as much as I hated hearing this, I now need to admit that my mentors were right.
Furthermore, they reminded me that this is my view on corporate politics, which may not necessarily be the view of others. Also, they challenged me to re-think why am I so sure that my view is the correct one. And instead of bothering about corporate politics they urged me to re-think my goals in my career and to think about what needed to be done to accomplish them
So, like it or not, I needed to admit many things to myself. Firstly, I am responsible for my career. Furthermore, complaining is always easier than acting.
Most importantly, I reminded myself about my purpose and goal – my purpose is to represent the possibilities and to be the change I wanted to see in the world. So, like it or not, in order to achieve my goal, I needed to adapt my approach. Most importantly, I needed to change my mindset from playing the victim into playing for victory.
Nowadays, I am very much aware that ignoring office politics can mean the downfall of ambitious women, hence why I wanted to share some tips and tricks that helped me, as it might help others as well. And hopefully, in this way, we can make sure that less women will leave the workplace because of corporate politics.
In order to adapt my mindset, I started to list what bothered me so much about corporate politics. You can access the tips and tricks that helped me to look at corporate politics from more positive prospective here.
As you could read in example above after I read all the reasons why I didn’t want to play politics, I realized these were all just excuses I used for not getting ahead in my career.
Most importantly, I also asked myself “who are some of the people I work with and admire the most and did they play politics to get to where they are today?” The answer was yes they did play the office politics game and this also helped me to see politics in a more positive light.
I was aware that changing my mindset was not going to be easy but I also knew that if I wanted to achieve my goals I would have to. And a crucial part of that would be embracing the uncomfortable feelings which come from playing corporate politics.
To start with, I decided to acknowledge and accept that anytime I found myself in the old mindset, that was also ok. At least for a while. Thoughts like these come and go, but it is important to then remind myself that I need to make more of a conscious effort to associate politics with positive beliefs rather than negative ones.
Most importantly, I asked myself what I can do today to enjoy playing politics? What are the small steps I can take?
I remind myself of:
- all the people I admire who I know played politics and I remind myself if they could do it, I can do it too
- about my values and contribution to the business because this drives me forward, knowing that playing politics is important if I want to continue with making a difference in the business.
Furthermore, I also give myself permission to enjoy playing politics and reject the thesis that playing politics is bad and would turn me into some kind of bad person. However, the steps can very vary from day to day (sometimes I also mediate, other times I write down positive affirmations related to politics, etc.).
It is important that we approach corporate politics from a strategic perspective and that we find a way and will to change the negative beliefs we have around it. Furthermore, we need to be aware there will be days where we will love it and then there will still be days when we still hate it. But the most important thing is to find tools and an approach that helps us to navigate these often turbulent waters, rather than simply give up on it.
Now I would love to hear about some of your tips for playing corporate politics and what you like about it?