Everything Matters is the book for supervisors too busy to read a book.

Think Politically

Act Logically

The question is not: “Does the organization have political behaviors?” (They all do) The question is: “Are political behaviors controlled, tolerated, supported, or endorsed?”

All organizations have varying degrees of political intrigue. Some organizations thrive on internal politics, while others endure their existence. The supervisor will need to determine if the politics of a choice can be managed and at what cost to the organization.

To a large extent, the tolerance of organizational politics is governed by the decision making process of the person who is the chief-executive. The more he appears to make decisions based on favoritism, rather than make decisions that are logical, the more others in the organization will behave in the same fashion.

Dr. Hollis Palmer

There appears to be a direct correlation between the amount of politics within an organization and the amount of outside influence on the organization. Charities are a prime example of outside influence. Since the survival of charities is dependent upon donations and fundraisers, the constant need for money allows some individuals to derive additional influence based on the contributions which they are responsible for obtaining.

Supervisors need to establish early on how they are going to act toward the political environment in their organization. For people, whose services can be terminated (everyone except the owner), to act politically (the granting the favors) will almost always eventually backfire. The old expression, “Let no good deed go unpunished,” applies to decisions made for political reasons. Many, perhaps most employees, like to talk about the influences within their organization; while at the same time, they do not want their own supervisors to act politically unless the decision will be in their favor. A bigger dilemma for a supervisor is that the political machine of every organization is too powerful for even the best supervisor to control. In short, if a supervisor tries to act politically, he will almost always lose. Acting either logically or using the fairness doctrine, a supervisor may also lose; however, the loss will be slower and his actions will be justifiable.

The best example of acting politically versus acting logically is seen in the actions of any President following a disaster. Within days of a tragedy, the President will be at the scene. While he is at the scene, the first response personnel, police, fire etc. are using valuable time protecting him, rather than doing what is logical, helping those affected by the event. 

When it comes to politics even the best eventually lose. Looking at the Presidencies of Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H. Bush, and Bill Clinton, it is apparent that even men who were capable of climbing to the top of the political ladder eventually lose credibility. Therefore, if the best at politics eventually lose in the political arena, supervisors should assume that, if they act politically, eventually they will lose.

Remember when dealing with politics:

Every supervisor in every organization should assume that everyone in the organization is related to someone else in that organization. Therefore, an action taken with respect to one person will be known by everyone else. Political loyalty (having done a favor) is a shallow pool that only flows one way.

Every supervisor should assume that all of his actions are being taped – a fact that may be true.

The best a supervisor can do is to explain a political decision, while he can justify a logical one.

Will these suggestions help a supervisor to win? No. They will simply stay his execution.