- Michelle P. King is a leading global expert on gender and organizations and is the director of inclusion at Netflix.
- The following is an excerpt from her new book, „The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work.“
- In it, she describes how senior leaders often get ahead because they know how to „play the game“ of office politics.
- But women don’t have the same privilege of engaging in office politics as men. In fact, playing politics can actually serve as a barrier to their advancement.
- Each of us can help make diversity and inclusion a part of everyday life for employees if we’re willing to give up some of our standing at work to advocate for others.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When I began my career in human resources more than 18 years ago, I started to notice that some people were better equipped to manage the political aspects of work. At the time, part of my job was supporting senior leaders with managing their teams. As the years passed, I started to notice the same individuals getting promoted or rewarded over their peers – peers who were often far more qualified and experienced.
I was surprised by this, so I voluntarily interviewed 32 senior leaders to better understand why these individuals were so successful. I always got the same answer. These frequently promoted people all have one thing in common: They’re masters at getting the support they need for an idea, promotion, pay rise, project, or opportunity. In other words, they know how to „play the game.“ They have political skill. To navigate workplace politics, you need to be able to build relationships, network, collaborate, and persuade others. If you do this in just the right way, then you can significantly improve your performance ratings, promotion opportunities, reputation, and career progression.
Ryan, one of my male colleagues, is a master at office politics. He knows how to get anything approved or supported at work. One day I asked him how he managed to get people on his side. He told me that the key to his success was spending time with leaders or decision-makers. He would take every opportunity to have drinks, get lunch, or even go on bike rides with key leaders. This was how he developed enough goodwill that when it came time to ask for a favor or approval, there was a good chance he would get it.
Foto: The Fix: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work. Source: Courtesy of Michelle P. King
While Ryan was charming, persuasive, and good at his job, he had one thing that women in similar positions did not: access. Ryan could go for drinks, lunches, and bike rides because he was invited. He was similar to his leaders – this is male privilege in action. Ryan would always be accepted by these leaders because he looks, speaks, and dresses like most of them. This makes it easier for Ryan to bond with men who are in positions of power. Men engage in politics by including, favoring, being loyal, trading favors, and protecting each other. For men, engaging in politics is simply about following the rules of the game, and it’s something they do frequently within companies to get ahead. While being politically skilled might help people advance at work, there is one major problem with this: It doesn’t work for everyone in the same way.
Women don’t have the same privilege of engaging in office politics that men do. This makes it harder for women to build relationships, alliances, and supportive informal networks. It’s no surprise that women often rely more on formal systems and career development processes to advance than office politics. Because of this, experts might conclude that women just don’t understand office politics or value it the same way men do. The book „Political Skill at Work: Impact on Work Effectiveness“ argues that women deny the value of corporate politics, which makes them „politically naïve.“ As such, it is recommended that women undergo training and mentoring programs to fix their lack of political engagement.
Of course, it’s not that simple.
Research finds that engaging in office politics is something we associate with men. The behaviors people use to gain access to powerful individuals, important information, or opportunities are more masculine. This would happen all the time with Ryan. He found it easier to bond with male leaders, not only because he had access to them, but because he could joke and talk with them about sports in a way that was harder for women on the team. Even if we fix women by teaching them to joke in masculine ways and become one of the guys, women still won’t be accepted because they are violating the standards society holds for how women are meant to behave.
When it comes to office politics, all women face a catch-22. They can’t engage in office politics like men do because they risk being seen as masculine, so they lack access. And women also can’t engage their political skills in more feminine ways, because that’s not how you play the game. Balancing this requires significant mental energy from women and racial minorities, who must learn to play office politics in just the right way. Women who engage in political behaviors often find it to be draining, stressful, and tiring. They’re being asked to adopt behaviors that are not their own. It’s unfair to assume that this is even possible or will result in the same benefits that white men receive.
Not only does office politics feel inauthentic to women, but women find office politics to be irrational, aggressive, competitive, and important for advancing individual goals but not for wider organizational success (which is more important to women). In fact, in one study, women’s descriptions of barriers to their career advancement actually described office politics, which included things like being excluded or not having access to networks. Some studies have even found that women may turn down management roles because of their distaste for office politics. This really matters. The way organizations are structured requires that you engage in masculine political behaviors to advance your career. But if the only ones playing the political game are white men, we need a new game.
Each of us can make an intentional, consistent effort to identify ways to make diversity and inclusion a part of everyday life for employees – by investing our time, effort, and social status to support the inclusion, development, and advancement of minority groups at work. This also means being willing to give up some of your reputation, acceptance, and standing at work to advocate for others. Here’s how:
- Make it a priority to get to know the barriers women and minorities face at work, by reading books like this, researching these topics, and asking minority employees about their experiences.
- Ask minority colleagues you know well to share their stories or examples of marginalization and discrimination at work. And be open to learning about how you or your privilege may contribute to these experiences.
- Identify how workplaces don’t work for individuals who are different from the success prototype and then raise awareness in your organization about these challenges by sharing or speaking up when you see this happen at work.
- Work to identify solutions to these challenges that you can support or champion, including changes to your own behaviors.
- Be an ally to individuals who share their stories of discrimination or their ideas for how this might be solved. If needed, amplify their message and start an allyship program.
- Join an employee resource group (a group of employees who join together based on shared characteristics like being a veteran or a member of the LGBTQ community, with the aim of providing support and career development to one another) to which you have no demographic affiliation, to better understand the challenges that different employees have.
- Encourage your colleagues to understand how inequality is experienced at work. You could start an employee resource group, which focuses on understanding inequality in your workplace.
Spending your privilege is an intentional practice that aims to disrupt the status quo. This is not something you do once; it is an ongoing commitment to put equality into practice every day at work.
Adapted from THE FIX: Overcome the Invisible Barriers That Are Holding Women Back at Work by Michelle P. King. Copyright © 2020 by Michelle King. Reprinted by permission of Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
We need more liberty, less politics: Richard Boddie – OCRegister
Back in 1990 when I was running to become the 1992 nominee for president as the Libertarian Party candidate, and again when I actually ran for the Senate in California against Dianne Feinstein and John Seymour in 1992, and then against “DiFi” again and Michael Huffington in 1994, reporters would often ask me, “How many Libertarians are there”?
My late friend and mentor David Bergland, the 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, used to often tell reporters, “Most Americans are libertarians. They’re just in the process of discovering it.”
I pray that he might have been right, and I have reasons to believe so.
I believe that many Americans just want to be left alone to live their own lives freely, and that most abide by a live-and-let-live philosophy in their daily lives. It’s clear to me that we would probably all be better off if we stopped using the state, or so-called government, as the vehicle by which we try to impose our values on others. Voluntary anything beats mandatory anything every time.
But current political frameworks and debates don’t actually lend themselves to maximizing personal freedom, or even freedom from politics.
My initial political beliefs came from my home, as is most people’s experience. My dad, a Negro church pastor (this was in the early 1940s and that’s what we were called and also called ourselves when not using the term “colored”) was a Democrat, mainly because of FDR’s influence on the Black communities nationwide with his New Deal. Thus, I too was a Democrat. Rev. Boddie (pronounced “body”) strongly opposed war and questioned any and all United States military intervention worldwide. I also do to this day, most likely as a result of dad’s pacifist influence.
As an adult, after college and law school, I observed that the vast majority of Black folks in my city, Rochester, New York, were Democrats, likely for much the same reason as most people: you inherit political perspectives from those around you.
In those days in the minds of most people, politically, there were only Republicans, Democrats and Communists.
The concept of liberal, conservative, or even independent had yet to surface as political divisions in the minds of the citizenry. And surely there were no color-coded red, blue or purple shortcuts until recent times. And as for that recent innovation, it’s obvious that somebody definitely got the red and blue colorings backward. Who ever heard of a blue progressive or socialist, or a red Republican? Come on. But I ramble.
Unfortunately for our nation, the word “libertarian” and understanding thereof appears to be much too late in coming, just now breaking through to the masses. Instead and as a result, most of our politics are dominated by factions committed to using government to achieve what should be achieved voluntarily or as close to the individual as possible.
Libertarianism as a political approach is much closer to the intuition most people have of live and let live, for it is based on the common belief and understanding that this nation was predicated on respect for the individual first and foremost.
We would probably all be better off if we stopped using the government as the vehicle through which we seek to solve every problem, from the personal to the cultural to the economic.
This current divisive culture war and craziness that we are experiencing could ultimately be better handled by individuals and communities, often voluntarily, instead of being botched up and exacerbated by politicians at all levels.
I believe that we wouldn’t have our lives dominated by headlines about Trump or Biden or whomever if we didn’t trust in government to do so much that it shouldn’t be doing. Isn’t it obvious to you yet where the actual obvious problem is here? As the late American businessman and libertarian activist Robert LeFevre put it, “Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.”
The late co-founder of the Libertarian Party, David Nolan, established that there are five basic elements that one must believe in if she or he professes to be a libertarian: 1. You own yourself; 2. A belief in the right of self-defense; 3. Opposition to “criminal possession” laws; 4. Opposition to taxes on productivity; and 5. Support for a sound money system. That’s basically it.
Or more concisely, by yours truly: “Do all you agree to do, and do not encroach on other people or other people’s property.” Or, “Don’t hurt other people and don’t take their stuff.” Or, “Thou shalt not aggress.” And this especially goes for people calling themselves government, too.
These days so many decent American voters are clamoring for a third party. It is quite understandable considering all the bipartisan angst. But, for some strange reason, perhaps due to the Libertarian Party’s principled and consistent positions and belief that “thou shalt not aggress” or “live and let live.” and absent the traditional cut-throat and too often blind political tactics, few are aware of or making the switch to the only political party that could fix the mess.
The LP has been in existence for almost 50 years now, it is in all 50 states and has been for years, and has run presidential and congressional candidates since its inception, as well as state and local candidates. It’s interesting to note that very few Americans have been allowed to even consider that political party choice. What’s up with that?
Whether you vote for the LP or not, whether you call yourself a libertarian or not, wouldn’t our lives all be better if we were less bombarded with politics? The only way to get there is to stop playing the usual games, stop sticking to the usual scripts and stop putting so much power in the hands of politicians and the state.
Richard Boddie is a member of the Southern California News Group’s editorial board.
Ukraine president says Kyiv staying out of U.S. internal politics, elections – Reuters
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy gestures during an open-air news conference, one year after his inauguration, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Kiev, Ukraine May 20, 2020. Sergey Dolzhenko/Pool via REUTERS
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that it was a matter of Ukraine’s national security to stay out of U.S. internal politics, particularly its election.
“#Ukraine did not and will not allow itself to interfere in the elections and thus harm our trusting and sincere partnership with the #USA,” he wrote on Twitter late on Saturday.
Zelenskiy, 42, was a comic actor when he won a landslide election last year. But the first year of his presidency was overshadowed by Ukraine’s unwitting involvement in events that led to the impeachment of Republican U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump had unsuccessfully pressed Ukraine to launch an investigation into his Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden.
“Never, under any circumstances, it’s acceptable to meddle in another country’s sovereign elections,” Zelenskiy wrote.
Zelenskiy appealed to Ukrainian politicians to avoid any actions that could be linked to U.S. elections, nor allow themselves to try to solve any of their personal, political or business problems that way.
“Ukraine’s reputation is worth much more than the reputation of any of our politicians,” the president said.
Earlier this week, Zelenskiy told Reuters that he hoped U.S. support for Ukraine would remain strong regardless of who wins the American election.
Reporting by Natalia Zinets; editing by Jonathan Oatis
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