Politics are expected

November 6, 2021

Do you hate office politics?

Yeah, me too. Except when I don’t.

The popular business parable, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, defines office politics as:

Politics is when people choose their words and actions based on how they want others to react rather than based on what they really think.

More broadly speaking, office politics is “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies” of the workplace.

The book, and a lot of water cooler talk, paints politics in a negative light, and it often is, of course. If you tell your boss the release is on schedule, even when you know it’s in jeopardy due to a mistake that might get you fired, that’s politics, and not the good kind.

But if we look more closely, it’s really a rather neutral concept.

Petitioning your HR department to adopt a more equitable bonus scheme is politics.

Praising a colleague for a job well done, even though they always look down their nose at you, could be politics.

Asking for a pay raise for yourself, or a colleague, can be politics.

Here’s the thing…

Any time two or more people work together, there will be politics.

The meaningful question is: is it abusive politics? Does it stifle honesty, creativity, and problem-solving? These are the things that deserve an effort to avoid.

Related Content

Engineering is like high school

After we find land a first job we learn that correct answers often often technically inferior solutions, answers, or proposals win the day. Why?

Better code review

How can we encourage less superficial code reviews?

How can I eliminate technical debt?

You can't eliminate technical debt. Nor should you want to. But where does that leaev us?