I had an interesting email last week from a female IT manager in a large company. Here’s her dilemma:
“I have a management position, but am always coming up against ‘male’ politics. How can I succeed without getting drawn into ugly gender battles and political infighting?”
This is an area that has caused problems for probably hundreds of years, and we’re not going to change them overnight. You may find it helpful to find a mentor (male or female) inside or outside the business. Build your relationships very carefully within the company and find ways in which you can make connections that bring value to your male colleagues. Follow up and ask for feedback. This way, you will build respect and find a tenable position among them.
Remember, politics plays a part in every organisation; it’s an inevitable effect of putting humans together in some sort of hierarchical arrangement. Their behaviours are pretty clearly shown in hypocrisy, double-dealing, cliques, self-interest and deception. People tend to see opportunities for themselves and they will take it. It naturally erodes trust and team performance will deteriorate as motivation is driven downward.
If your organisation is full of political strife, try to follow some simple rules:
Observe the organisation’s style without getting involved. Watch the processes so you can begin to understand what the patterns and motivations are.
Keep your counsel and work according to your own values. If you try to match the values of the business, you will only get stressed. Use your own integrity to make decisions.
Build a network of trusted allies. This helps you to reconfirm and re-establish your own values.
Challenge any politically-motivated behaviour. This takes assertiveness, but will win out in the long run. Saying something like ‘You seem to have a problem with some of my decisions…would you like to discuss them?’ will bring the issues out into the open.
By identifying what exactly are the motives of people who are playing the political hand, you may well uncover some of the issues that are causing other people problems too, and be able to decide on which direction you want to take within the company, even if you eventually decide it’s not for you.