Tacking Team Politics
Isn't it funny how those who say they don't want to be involved in workplace politics are generally the ones who are the most strategic people on a work team? Experts agree that there are five political positions on any work team, and that these positions can be used to either expedite or interfere with team outcomes. Let's discuss the roles of Allies, Opponents, Adversaries, Bedfellows, and Fence-sitters.
Allies are people who look to align with other like minded individuals. They provide support for others on the team who believe as they do. Opponents see a different side of the issues at hand, and provoke further discussion of topics up for the team's consideration. Bedfellows are those people who are willing to align with anyone who they think will be able to provide them with some sort of benefit, and fence-sitters believe they should remain neutral at all costs. Adversaries are willing to sabotage others who get their way. For them, work is war.
In order to manage team politics it is necessary to get allies and opponents to talk to each other so that the issues on the table can be closely examined while preserving good working relationships. Bedfellow and fence-sitters need to be quizzed to learn why they have taken the positions they are assuming, and be encouraged to take a stance based on issues, not relationships. Adversaries need to be taken to task for their negative tactics, and be made to understand that subversive actions will not be tolerated.
Politics is defined as "building relationships for the express purpose of exploiting them". Each of the five political positions found in work teams gets their power from relationships with other team members. Make your team a "politics-free zone" by nipping political games in the bud the moment they rear their ugly heads.