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Organizational Chess

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Most people dislike confrontation, especially the office kind. But inevitably no matter which organization you work for and irrespective of your position the chances are that you have to deal with conflict at work. Granted there are some organizations that have more than their fair-share of office conflict but it is hard to find an organization where there is none. It’s not about money: just talk to someone that works in the academia (where the stakes are supposedly low, at least monetarily speaking) or at a non-profit. It’s about influence and power.

So what is one supposed to do. A lot of well-intentioned but mistaken people believe that the best approach is to stay away from the political scene. That can be a recipe for (career) disaster, especially if you are leading a team. One does not need to be a political animal but one must develop a political radar and the ability to mitigate the damage caused by those that are political animals. Linda Hill & Kent Lineback make a strong case in this Fortune article that in order to be effective one must not shy away from but tackle organizational conflict head-on. They recommend that employees develop the skills necessary to operate in the specific political environments at their workplaces. Hill & Lineback are clear that they are not encouraging employees to be more political but instead are encouraging employees to be more aware of why conflict arises, how it is expressed and how it is resolved.

They contend that the very nature of modern organizations makes conflict inevitable. It is their belief that legitimate differences in opinions and strategy can sometimes be perceived as organizational games. Instead of refraining from participating in politics, well-intentioned employees and especially managers need to understand how conflicts are resolved: through influence. How does one develop influence in an organization?

To be an effective boss, you must influence others — people and groups over whom you have no formal control — to get what your group needs and to work for what you believe is best and right. Your own people count on you to do this because they cannot do their work well otherwise. Your organization depends on voices like yours to keep it on the right track.

The best way to build influence is to create ongoing relationships for mutual advantage. There’s no reason you cannot do this while holding yourself to high standards of openness, honesty, fairness, and respect.

So stop being above the political fray and get into it, for the right reasons of course.



Written by Varma Chanderraju

July 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

Posted in Management

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