Men and Organisational Politics

The three kinds of men who fall foul of organisational politics and why

I’m sometimes asked to work with a man who has got on the wrong end of the small-p politics in an organisation. These men are often one of three types:

1. A direct, action-oriented type
This kind of man often has a great straight-forwardness about him and a high-level of intuitive, natural leadership. Sometimes these strengths make him frustrated and ineffective in dealing with what he sees as the cowardly caution and game-playing of people with different styles of behaviour;

2. A highly-principled, morally-astute type
This kind of man has a strong sense of right, wrong and justice; often combined with an ability to ‘see’ the outcome of complex decisions and chains of events. Organisations often seem to him to have ambiguous values – to say one thing and then do another, or to take the easiest, most expedient route, rather than the ‘right’ one;

3. A focused, do-the-job-right type
This kind of man has a gift for making things work well, for knowing how to tinker and fix his specific part of the organisation until it is running like a well-oiled machine. He might feel particularly lost when the bigger-picture objectives of the organisation are inefficient, or at cross-purposes or put the smooth-running of his territory at a lower-priority than something else – as they often do!

In these situations, I’ve found it crucial to remember that these are strengths that have got things to this point, not weaknesses. It’s just that they may not be the most appropriate strengths for him to apply right now. We need to step away from: “You’re doing something wrong”, which is what the organisation or the system seems to be telling him – just when he is trying very hard to apply what he knows. Then we can head towards new ways of looking at how other people behave and how to relate to that, or to new capabilities that broaden the range of strengths he can apply.

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