Corporate politics, are they good, bad or simply an executive must?

Corporate politics can either be a problem or a skill set, whichever way you want to brew it. It's something that is often not talked about in any skill or competency assessment, but I'm sure we can all agree that not playing the political game correctly is something that can seriously impact your success.

Is corporate politics something for everyone to learn? Well, yes, in one sense, as it can bring positive benefits to a team or an individual employee. For starters, I define corporate politics positively when your intention is still in the best interest of what (the organisation) versus who (what is best for me).  

Of course there are times and situations where things need to be about you. After all, we are all human and have individual career motivations and desires. So playing the corporate political game positively to get ahead, without damaging others, is a great skill to practice. For instance, networking (in / out of work), attending company events, having lunch with the right people, staying at work longer or coming in earlier, and or talking to your boss and sometime your boss's boss about your future career interests. As long as your intentions are good and you are treating others positively, then I would argue you are playing the political game positively.  

Corporate politics with negative traits are the things that we need to watch out for as they can really damage a culture. I find corporate politics negatively occurring when the equation changes to what is best for me (the employee) instead of the organisation. These behaviours could include backstabbing, going behind your coworkers' backs, forming allies for negative intentions and or by looking to sabotage someone's presentation or idea by focusing on all the issues (versus solutions). I'm sure the list could go on and you could add a few things that exist within your team or organisation. 

As Executives, we can sometimes be the makers or breakers of the types of politics that exist within our organisation. As these behaviours that our team and organisations demonstrate will always be a direct reflection of our own behaviours or what we allow to be acceptable. In a lot of cases, we don't even realise that we are playing the political game or encouraging it since it's mostly something that has helped us personally get ahead career wise or that we almost consider it the norm.

What type of culture do we want to create, support, reward, or encourage versus the behaviours that we don't? The easiest answer and probably the most simplistic one is to sit down with your CEO and Executive team and discuss the behaviours that you want to exist and what behaviours you will not tolerate (even by one of your most productive employees). This is a great first step in changing the culture or the level of politics that exist within your organisation. 

So are corporate politics a skill set that Executives need to learn, a taboo that no one talks about in organisations (and should) or simply something that we need to dissolve out of organisations? Well, I think the answer is all three!