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DEALING WITH PETTY POLITICS

Posted by Tim Bryce on February 18, 2013

BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT

– Some alternatives to kissing someone’s ring.

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
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It seems petty politics is an inherent part of our lives. There is no escaping it. We find it implemented by government bureaucrats, corporate department managers and supervisors, and officers of nonprofit organizations, be they homeowner associations, club sports, religious orders, garden clubs, fraternal organizations, or whatever. In most cases, petty politics emerge over turf wars where people jealously guard the fiefdoms they have built for themselves. Somehow it reminds me of two sentry ants, each desperately guarding the entrance to their ant hill from each other, and both unaware the two ant hills are connected by tunnels underground. Neither realizes they are playing on the same team.

Petty politics comes about when small-minded people have been placed in a position of authority and take pleasure in being able to exercise control over other people who would normally smash them like a bug. They desperately want to prove they are someone of importance and should command respect. And therein lies their weakness: Ego. They want to dominate you, not so much as to fulfill their duties and responsibilities, but primarily because they want to neutralize you as a competitor or as someone who might spoil their plans. Ironically, the more they try to intimidate you, the more they lose respect, not just from you, but by others observing the conflict.

When you are faced with a person practicing petty politics, there are a few options at your disposal:

1. Play their game. This ultimately depends how long this person or yourself will be around. If it is nothing more than a short period of time, it might be more expedient to simply let the other person have his/her way. If the person if going to be there longer though, you may wish to consider other tactics, such as…

2. Challenge their authority. This is a “head on” approach that will naturally result in the creation of an enemy; then again, the person was already proven himself to be an enemy from the outset so it might be worthwhile to conquer this problem now as opposed to running into again in the future. This requires you to question their authority, thereby undermining them. Before you do this though, be sure to research the friends of your adversary as they will likely be called into play if you become a problem. In other words, you will not be just fighting the petty politician, but his friends as well.

3. Perform an end-run around your obstacle, either by way of his superior or another person who can perform the service for you.

4. Offering a bribe sometimes works, be it a small present, gift or some other form of remuneration. Know this though, once you have done so, the petty politician will expect it as a regular diet.

5. Ignore them. This can be the most devastating of the tactics taken. Since the petty politician craves recognition, do not give it to him under any circumstance. Do not say anything good or bad about the person, just ignore him. Simply go about your business as if the other person doesn’t exist. Find alternatives instead. If the person has something you need to fulfill your task, just take it; do not ask permission to use it as the other person certainly will not consent to give it to you. Just find another way to get the job done, but ignore the person completely. It will drive him crazy.

I have found over the years, when it comes to petty politics, you have to fight fire with fire. If you have a petty politician embedded in your organization like an Alabama tick, you can either pacify your antagonist, or yourself. Just remember, bureaucrats exist to impede progress, not expedite it. Consequently, they play dirty. If you plan to combat such a person, be prepared to get as dirty as he is.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

NEXT UP:  POLITICAL DEMOGRAPHICS – True, the president won Florida, but certainly not by a landslide.

Listen to Tim on WJTN-AM (News Talk 1240) “The Town Square” with host John Siggins (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 12:30-3:00pm ET), and KGAB-AM 650 “The Morning Zone” with host Dave Chaffin (weekdays. 6:00-10:00am MST).

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9 Responses to “DEALING WITH PETTY POLITICS”

  1. Very sensible advice Tim. Petty Politics is indeed that and it’s often better not to sink to the level of the petty one.If you ignore them they usually display enough stupidity to do themselves out of a job.

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    An L.M. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania wrote…

    “Power and authority brings out the “true” character of the person, it is interesting to watch.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An M.B. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    “So true, and also applies to your personal life as well.”

    Like

  4. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “This hits home with me. For man years, I was a volunteer at our church and its schools. There were assorted volunteer groups within the parish and the competition surprised me in the beginning. I got used to it, but was frustrated by how much time and resources were wasted trying to plan and accomplish any kind of event. There was so little sharing and cooperation and these people are Christians!

    I found the end run useful. I would identify a cooperative person in the other groups and offer my help. Without exception, that person helped my group at some point. For example, I chaired the annual fashion show for about five years, soliciting prizes from merchants. A local record shop donated band T-shirts, CDs, and CD cases….not really the sort of prizes for which adult women line up to buy raffle tickets, but great for teens. I offered them to the woman who was chairing the senior class party and she swapped me a voucher for a Marriott weekend and some grocery store gift certificates. Each of us got prizes appropriate for our events’ age groups and there were no hard feelings.”

    Like

  5. Tim Bryce said

    A B.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “Over the years, I have faced many petty politicians. You have aptly named them as petty.

    One of their biggest problems is that they see “little people” almost a most of the rest of the world looks on floor sweepers and security guards and the like. To most of the world of craftsman, engineers, officer managers and other supervisory position, these “little people” of of no consequence other then to be ordered around.

    My dad had a sign in in office that I still remember today. It said:
    “Work faithfully for 8 hours a day and don’t worry, Some day you will become boss, work 16 hours a day and have all the worry”

    The petty politicians never reach this point, The either got the position by “brown nosing”bosses of like mind, bully others to get there or simple being in right place at the wrong time.

    In real truth, there is no way of fighting these folks expect by rule of law. Only when you catch them at wrong-doing can you do anything about them.

    I teach all the kids that come to my shop to learn, to keep on the job, a notebook and when something wrong or stupid happens or petty politics push the wrong buttons, Record it all including the time and dated and name of each occurrence. If for no other reason then to CYA.

    Use of the same rule book and apply those rules will most of the time prove your standpoint. As for the friends of the politicos, most of them fall in the same boat. Unless you have overwhelming support on your side, it is best to ignore these less than human ambition machine

    I truly feel for those who have to work under bad management. “

    Like

  6. I left a comment and it promptly got lost. Anyway – I had a petty person I once was forced to work with. I even tried all the very good ideas you listed – nothing worked. The guy honestly hated me with such a passion, he totally lost it one day in the office when everyone went to lunch and came within a hair’s breath of punching me. I quickly got out of the office and called my boss. Thankfully my boss believed me – even though the guy was an old friend of his – and I never had to work with man again. I to this day do not know why he hated me so.

    Like

  7. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “I prefer the “end run” option. Leaves them wondering.”

    Like

  8. There are also several nonviolent conflict resolution tactics that can be useful in such situations. Find common ground, mutually shared interests and goals. Praise whatever value you find in the other. Recognize skills and talents. Acknowledge the element of truth in what is being said before disagreeing with any part of it. Make sure the other party feels heard and appreciated. Own your own emotions. Don’t blame others for your feelings, but explain the need that drives you and politely request that your needs be met. Most importantly, maintain a future focus. Don’t bicker about who is to blame for the past.

    Like

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