Initiation to Organizational Politics and Sex Education in the 1950’s

The ways and means that managers learn about organizational politics today reminds me of sex education in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

All my friends thought my Dad was a liberal when he gave me a Playboy magazine to “catch up” on what was not covered in the biology class in the Protestant school I attended. (Jews were then sent to Protestant or Catholic schools in Quebec). My friend’s dad  was “more radical”; he gave my buddy  $20 and told him to go down to St Lawrence Boulevard on Saturday night “to become a man”.

This archaic mode of sex education is akin to the way managers are  introduced to organizational politics nowadays . By organizational politics, I am referring to legitimate and dirty influence peddling.  Managers either get no political training, or they are taught about all about how organizations should behave!

Political skills have always been important to success, and political astuteness and flexibility are even more important since 2008, with fewer jobs are available to fewer people. Political skills in some organizations are far more important than professional knowledge/skills. The higher the rung on the ladder, the more important having these political  skills becomes. Often one looks at the top and we ask, “how did s/he get there?” Political skills are often the answer. And you may never see the top without political savvy.

By political savvy I am not merely relating to Kipnis and Pois (and others) influencing strategies. These influencing strategies are but one very small part of a whole gamut of skills which constitute political astuteness and flexibility.

Political skills include influencing strategy, communication, self promotion, coalition building, badmouthing, discrediting, word- smithing, over/under promising, social media know-how, reputation management, networking etc..

Organizational politics is not “going down to St Lawrence Blvd to get laid!” Too many bright and talented managers are pushed aside due to the lack of learn-able political skills.

I enjoy the work I do coaching managers on organizational politics and there is immediate transfer of training.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

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3 thoughts on “Initiation to Organizational Politics and Sex Education in the 1950’s

  1. This is a post that resonates so deeply with me. More and more of my executive clients are asking me to coach them on “Politics at work”. One of the book I recommend is entitled: “Who Really Matters” by Art Kleiner. We then hold a conversation together about how they think on what they think regarding politics at work and becoming skilled at it.

  2. I have never understood why so many otherwise bright people are lacking in political savvy. I am especially puzzled by those who view “politics” with distaste and avoidance instead of recognizing that politics are the very stuff of which organizations are fashioned.

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