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Politics in the Workplace

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In the past week I have been confronted more than ever with the horrific degrees to which politics in the workplace can swell.

It is unbelievable how many people still walk around with hidden agenda’s in a world where they all call for togetherness and interconnectedness.

This experience instigated within me the question whether our biggest problem as human beings is not the fact that we can think, and therefore can wish other things than we actually express with our words.

The other day I attended a meeting in a corporate environment where my above posted concerns were all shamelessly displayed: the female chairperson of a group of collaborative services was trying to bring her team to a level of consensus with regards to selecting one out of four possible lay outs of the team’s future work location. She wanted to achieve this consensus before the four options would be presented to an interdepartmental team that would be solicited to participate in the funding.

I think that her train of thoughts was that unity creates power, and that, if she could at least bring her team of immediate co-workers to a consensus level in determining the most preferred design, it would be easier to convince the other departments that they would have to come across with the funding. What she was trying to avoid, according to her statements, was unnecessary loss of time and energy due to an indecisive approach from the inner circle toward the plan. Unfortunately, her hope went up in smoke when one of the other women in the team started protesting against this strategy, thereby accusing the chairperson of authoritarianism instead of practicing the democratic approach. It was this worker’s opinion that every individual should be given the freedom to express his or her preference in the interdepartmental meeting. The fact that this would add up to a total of 10 scattered preferences, which could give rise to hesitation of a group of decision makers that was supposed to be persuaded toward financial participation did not seem to matter very much.

Aside from the fact that differences in opinion can be a healthy trend, it was very embarrassing to hear how, in this particular case, difference in opinion was uttered. There were accusations back and forth about having held each other’s back and having covered for each other in the past years; about attitudes that had suddenly changed; and about people feeling insulted by each other’s mean stings under the surface: In short, this was one big discomforting display of heated emotions. The way things were playing out in this corporate meeting strongly reminded me of monkeys who were jealous of each others positions and who were out to hit one another where it hurt most. As an outsider all one could do was blush and remain dumbfounded for quite some time. There were squinted eyes, loud voices, harsh words, scrunching teeth, and snorting breaths, all typical displays of people who had the hardest time keeping themselves under control.

The most interesting part of this charade was when the women started to accuse one another of having secret agenda’s. That’s when I thought to myself, “In fact we all have an agenda. It’s just that some are more secretive than others. Some of us are more openly about our goals, while others have a tendency of hiding behind all sorts of honorable seeming motives. And on these moments of reciprocal anger and frustration the multiple layers of motives are disclosed.

What I actually considered most dreadful detail of this entire farce was that it were, once again, the women who were degrading each other this flagrantly. This meeting had all the ingredients of a catfight, and the few men who were present during this session were sitting there with eyes like dishes and beet red heads from disbelief and dismay. And I think I know the thoughts that were flashing through their heads, because I had those very thoughts as well: “So, this is why women rarely reach the top of the corporate ladder: the glass ceiling is only partially constructed from the unity among men against women’s progress. The glass ceiling for women is constructed for an even greater part of other women who block their way to the top. And as long as they do that to one another they will continue to be stuck somewhere in the middle, and continue to earn less for similar positions compared to men.

This is all because, just like with some ethnic groups in the world, the cohort of women displays an enormous deficiency in unity. The depressing reality is that if women can blackball one another behind each other’s backs, most of them will not refrain from doing so. This tendency does not only ignite hatred and mutual antagonism among women, but it also provokes resentment within the male community toward a cohort that demands equal rights and rewards, yet of which the members bite each others’ head off with every step they attempt to make forward.

With regards to the objections that the opponent in the here-described meeting was conveying toward the intended strategy: I have been wondering how far democracy should actually be driven in order to be effective and efficient. Can you practice it infinitely if you ever want something to be done, or should you, at a certain point say: “let’s vote and choose for the road of least resistance, and then cooperate toward making this goal work”? If that is considered authoritative thinking, then I guess men have understood it well and transformed it into a great success, because in high-powered, influential circles this is exactly the strategy they apply: “We cannot lose too much time, so let’s make our decision and all go for it. Together.”

In conclusion, an excessively practiced democratic strategy leads to problems, just like an excessively authoritarian one does: The golden midway, that’s the key. For remember, everything that’s too is too. Most men in corporate settings already seem to know that. Shouldn’t most women too by now?

Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in 1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master’s in Business Administration, and is currently a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. Look for her books “:Empower the Leader in You” and “The Global Village” in bookstores online or on her website: http://www.joanmarques.com

Politics in the Workplace
About Joan Marques
Joan Marques emigrated from Suriname, South America, to California, U.S., in 1998. She holds a doctorate in Organizational Leadership, a Master's in Business Administration, and is currently a university instructor in Business and Management in Burbank, California. Look for her books ":Empower the Leader in You" and "The Global Village" in bookstores online or on her website: http://www.joanmarques.com WebProNews Writer
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    Very nice article

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