Politics is what happens when we contend with each other for control or dominance, or when we work together to resolve issues. Politics can be constructive or destructive. Sometimes, it's both. All of us, from the bottom of the org chart to the top, must work with the organization's politics as it is, constructive or not. Over time, we can influence its flavor, but at any given moment, we must accept it as it is.
For instance, when we need the attention of a particular individual or department, we must often compete with others who also need the attention of that same individual or department. Arranging to get what we need, when we need it, usually involves accommodating others. That's politics. In some organizations, the only real way to accomplish that is to hinder or circumvent — if not utterly destroy — the competitor. That would be destructive politics. In other organizations, the parties involved work together to find a way to satisfy everyone's needs, and if necessary, to escalate the issue to a responsible party who can help resolve it. That's what I call constructive politics.
Most organizations have instances and practitioners of all kinds of politics — constructive, destructive, and all that lies between. The people within the organization must find ways to get what they need, somehow, given the political situation as it is.
Dealing with incidents as they come can require specialized tools that many of us lack, or haven't used in a long time. That's why we developed the Politics Clinic.
In the Politics Clinic, we don't focus on presenting a vast amount of general-purpose material about workplace politics. We do a bit of presentation, but just a bit, at the outset. After that attendees present their questions, wonderings, knots, quandaries, predicaments, muddles, dilemmas, impasses, and tight situations, and we work on them in a series of interactive simulations, to develop insights that can get the presenters of those situations moving forward again.
Program structure and content
The overall structure of the program is a series of cases. Each case is based on the contributions of the participants. A participant will describe a situation (possibly fictional) that he or she anticipates or has experienced, and which could present difficulties to his or her team, or to the organization. Under the guidance of an experienced facilitator, we then explore the issues presented in the case, and develop a scenario for simulation. Then, as a group, we run the simulation to discover unexpected difficulties or hindrances, and options for dealing with them.
The one-day and two-day formats of this program include copies of my ebook 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics for all participants and their supervisors (a value). Ideal for those who like to supplement their learning by reading, or as a reference for later study. MoreWe often think of workplace skills as rather technical — free of emotional content. We hold this belief even though we know that our most difficult situations can be highly charged. Despite our most sincere beliefs, taking an organization to the next level of performance does require learning to apply our skills even in situations of high emotional content. That's why this program uses a learning model that differs from the one often used for technical content.
Our learning model is partly experiential, which makes the material accessible even during moments of stress. Using a mix of presentation, simulation, group discussion, and metaphorical team problems, we make available to participants the resources they need to make new, more constructive choices even in tense situations.
Leaders and managers and technical project team members.
- "Rick is a dynamic presenter who thinks on his feet to keep the material relevant to the
— Tina L. Lawson, Technical Project Manager, BankOne (now J.P. Morgan Chase)
- "Rick truly has his finger on the pulse of teams and their communication."
— Mark Middleton, Team Lead, SERS