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Office Politics

How To Spot a Political Animal

I lived the rough and tumble of corporate politics in many companies and I can tell you, it’s no fun. Politics can undo you – even if you’re operating with good intent, and doing everything right.

On one level, politics can be seen simply as a process of influencing, but on another, it can be a devious, divisive tool used by individuals to further their own standing, while creating a toxic and cancerous culture – which ultimately ruins your business. 

How do you spot a political animal? Office politics can be incredibly destructive, but there’s no organization that’s completely immune to politics. Rule number one for not being blindsided is to be able to see it.

Political animals don’t take any issue head on. They don’t engage in discussions with conflict in a group situation. They prefer to go one-on-one with the boss to try to influence them. They can’t tolerate the slightest criticism and they deflect it ferociously – typically onto other people. 

This is why single point accountability is so important. Political animals are short on accountability, long on excuses. They’re at pains to always agree with the boss – and I have seen some truly vomit-worthy behavior in the form of public fawning and flattery.

  • They suck up to the boss and serve up exactly what he wants to hear, and this often results in them being granted trusted advisor status
  • They build a relationship of strong influence with those people above and they spend more time focused on those relationships than on the people below
  • Quite often, they’re kiss up, kick down bosses
  • They’re Yes People – never challenging power with truth
  • They demonstrate a lack of trust in oh so many ways
  • They cover up anything bad that happens on their watch and disproportionately trumpet the good
  • They blow the team’s achievements way out of proportion because they set low and unambitious targets
  • They don’t pay any heed to people who can’t further their self-interested cause, and…
  • They work out pretty quickly who can help them to get the power they seek and form strong alliances with those people

This is like a mini-checklist for a medical condition. You know the ones – “if you suffer from any four of these half dozen symptoms, you may be at risk of heart disease, so please see your doctor”.

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