I have just recently gotten into House of Cards.
I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I do, but I am. As I have shared with my friends, it is filthy goodness. I’m on Season 2 and if I’m honest, each new episode ignites a greater disdain within me for politics.
You may be thinking it’s just a show, but I will wager that sometimes art imitates life, and watching the Underwoods and all of the other gremlins in this fantasy world Washington D.C. on House of Cards has reminded me of my own run-ins with politics at work.
Let me be abundantly clear: I hate politics with a passion. I’m a straight-shooter and I call things how I see them. I never understood why I needed to be “fake friends” or put on appearances with people to get something I needed to do my job.
“Be a little more flexible, Janine.” “Don’t get into any disagreements with hiring manager Joe, just do what they want.” “You need to increase the amount of accounts you lunch per week.” “Making this claim will not bode well for your career.” This is just a short list of the politically-motivated demands made to me over the course of my career.
The un-political worker
Every time I was faced with a new demand, my message was the same — don’t bring your politics around me.
Now, I’m not insinuating that some situations don’t require more diplomacy and/or the ability to negotiate. However, I take issue when every decision, meeting, or new initiative feels like I need a war plan and armory to prevent my own demise.
I am flexible when the situation warrants it. I refuse to be fearful about what I can and cannot say when I am charged to work towards a solution with internal and external customers.
It feels dirty to wine and dine people who you know are terrible for business; but you do it because their dollars and coins account for a substantial amount of business. Moreover, don’t threaten my career with a smirk and seemingly pleasant epithets that I have to decode later – only to find out you are out to get me.
3 things to know about non-political employees
Newsflash: Most workers want to come to work and do what you ask of them. Here are some things you need to know about the un-political worker:
- We care about the mission and vision. We don’t care about agendas. Your mission and vision help to provide clarity around the purpose of your staff’s work. It is your “why” and their “why.” It is a global narrative for why the business exists in the first place. Agendas are personal and based on self-interest. They aren’t usually clear, because they aren’t rooted in following procedure or moral steps.
- Colleges and universities don’t teach the art of manipulation. There’s no rule book in political environments. Actually, let me rephrase that. There are written rules to please the masses and then there are the unspoken rules that get made up as you go along. Your employees aren’t interested in having to be manipulative in every situation. In fact, many of them were never formally trained in this skill. Stop insisting that they add this to their professional repertoire.
- Your employees don’t care about politics. You hired them to do a job and they can do it. Recognize that politics in the workplace is a system. It’s a system you created based on your agendas and what best serves the financial, professional and business interests of a certain group of people. Rarely, do the politics in the business serve all of your employees. I have never worked somewhere when I suddenly realized: “Wow, the politics in this organization have really boosted my career and put me at the top of my game.”
You don’t need casualties in your business
It is often said on House of Cards that there are winners and losers in politics. That is certainly true.
The thing is, I don’t want any casualties in my business. I want everyone who puts in the work and effort to win.
I think most employees would prefer those cards over your messy office politics.
This was originally published on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.