Sincerity and Office Politics

This is part of a series of posts organized and arranged by Jane Perdue.  You can find the introduction here and the post on networking by Jennifer V. Miller at her blog The People Equation.  Next week, Susan Mazza will post on the political side of agendas at Random Acts of Leadership. The question before us today: examining the political and non-political sides of sincerity and authenticity.

"The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Groucho Marx

Sincerity and authenticity are leadership competencies that inspire trust.  Trust lubricates relationships and transactions. Trust makes it easier for people to work together.  Trust is necessary for togetherness and group identity.  Being authentic means I know what you're "for." If I am confident that another person is "for" the same things I'm "for," I don't have to spend energy managing the gap in our allegiance.  I have more energy to devote to the allegiance itself and its desired outcome.

Misleading Motives

When a person fakes authenticity or sincerity, they misrepresent their true motives and create a trust gap.  Faked authenticity and sincerity sabotage shared vision as they kill trust. They create an organization where trust is replaced by "politics;" (office politics, or little-league team politics, or homeowner's association politics, or church politics, or "you-name-it" politics). Wikipedia defines "politics" as a process by which groups of people make decisions.  The word originated from the Greek word polis which means city-state. The original idea rises from the ideas of republic and democracy, but over time the term has taken on negative connotations.  Many times office politics implies individuals trying to manipulate outcomes to favor a few rather than the whole. Office politics rise when objectives are not shared or clearly understood.  Lack of clarity on shared mission causes everyone to pursue their own definition of "right." End-justifying activities such as posturing and manipulation become best-practices of the organization.

Unsuspecting co-workers drop their guard and award trust when it would otherwise be unjustified. Power initially transfers until true motives are discovered.  When trust is compromised and people withdraw, the dark side of office politics fill the trust void.

Restore Sincerity

What do you do when you recognize your group's culture is one of distrust and politics?

  1. Commit to authenticity and transparency. Take the leadership role by developing sincere, team-focused motives and being transparent. (Someone has to go first!)
  2. Renew a shared vision - work to make sure everyone on your team is working for the same goal. If you're not sure about a team member's motives, maybe you need to help them find another team.
  3. Align motivations - Every sustainable relationship must be win-win. Align individual motives with the shared vision.
  4. Tear down walls - transparency is the only way to initially prove true authenticity and sincerity.  When people begin protecting themselves and masking true motives, credibility evaporates. Work to keep people open and honest.
  5. Encourage patience and grace - authenticity is proven over time.
  6. Celebrate progress - Repeatable success over time builds confidence.

What other steps can you recommend to readers who long for true sincerity (positive office politics) or a politics-free workplace? Speak up and stamp out negative office politics, one organization at a time.