What are ‘Office Politics’?

Have you ever heard someone refer to ‘office politics’ or say that a particular setting is ‘political’? I have, and prior to becoming an emotionally intelligent leader, I, too, used to cringe at and/or avoid settings that I considered “political”. But have you ever considered what ‘office politics’ really are, underneath it all?

Thanks to a colleague of mine, who helped me mature as a leader, I no longer consider ‘office politics’ as something to be avoided. I remember vividly a conversation I had with him one day, during which I told him that I did not understand why I had to engage in ‘office politics’ just to get things done for my soldiers. I expected him to agree with me, but he did not. In fact, he challenged me by asking me what I considered to be ‘office politics’. Then, he offered me his thoughts on what he considered ‘office politics’ to be, and it changed my life. He said, “You should think of office politics as ‘the art of the human relationship’. Once you start thinking of all of your interactions in terms of creating and maintaining relationships with people, you will, with practice, become more mindful of your interactions and it will be less about ‘politics’ and more about mutual respect.” I distinctly remember this conversation, which took place over ten years ago, because it was really the first time that I had been challenged in this way to reconsider my paradigm.

“The art of the human relationship.” Wow. When you think of it in those terms, it takes away [almost] every negative connotation of working with others to accomplish missions, tasks, and/or goals. It is a necessary paradigm shift, which allows you to then become mindful of how you are feeling, how others are feeling, and the impact (not just the intent) of the messages you are sending. As discussed earlier, it is mindfulness, which is necessary for creating and maintaining resonant relationships with others. Imagine the difference between operating with an “office politics” paradigm versus an “art of the human relationship” paradigm. It seems, at least for me, readily obvious which paradigm is more conducive to mutually respectful exchanges and relationships.

What do you think? Can you remember a time in your personal and/or professional lives when you heard or read something that served as an ‘aha moment’, helping you change your outlook?


Dr. Mark

About the Author:

Emotional Intelligence and Organizational Change Leader Mark gained his leadership experience by serving over 20 years as a member of the US Army. He served in a variety of executive leadership positions within multiple Department of Defense organizations, assessing employee performance, advancing positive social change, and using his knowledge of emotional intelligence to build resonant relationships with all members of the organization. Mark holds a Doctorate in Management-Leadership and Organizational Change from Walden University.

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