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How can office politics work for you instead of against you? – SmartBrief

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We’ll soon know who will be president in 2021, whether tonight or another day, and we’ll have to move on with our life’s work. Elections are brutally zero-sum affairs: Someone wins, and the other candidates lose.

Electoral outcomes literally change countries and societies, so it’s understandable that we obsess over them. One downside to this, as I’ve written about here before, is that people start to think everything is a zero-sum game, which is not how life works.

Yes, many moments in life and business are win-lose situations. But the totality of our careers and personal lives are rarely zero-sum outcomes. Yes, a company might succeed or fail because it defeats a competitor, but few industries have but one player. Yes, only one person can be the CEO (with some exceptions), but there are many titles and roles for workers, just as there are many career paths available. Yes, you might suffer a failed relationship, but friendship isn’t a zero-sum game and soulmate is not a literal, genetic designation.

Even sports teams, which exist to compete in winner-take-all championships, gain a great deal from performing well even when they don’t win the title. As I wrote last year about the World Series, the Ricky Bobby philosophy of “If you ain’t first, you’re last” is short-sighted and deflating. This lesson should apply to our businesses, our teams, our careers and our personal lives.

And that brings me to a tricky subject, an area where a zero-sum mentality can take you far: office politics. That awful, persistent mixture of intrigue, gossip and deceit — and also networking and relationships and teamwork.

We all know people who have played the game — perhaps too well. These folks court favor rather than friendship, they aren’t particularly excellent, yet they keep moving up and taking on more responsibility. Or they spend their time placating or manipulating the boss instead of serving employees, customers and the business. Or they’re just a jerk!

Similarly, we all know people who suffer because they refuse to engage in anything resembling office politics — or they mistakenly conflate “play politics” with “be decent to people.”

We can’t avoid office politics if we want to work with people. It’s that simple. At the same time, you might not want to spend your days obsessing about your co-workers and the latest rumors.

In short, how do you acknowledge that “office politics” is simply the act of working with other people without subsuming yourself in palace intrigue?

Fortunately, I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. SmartBrief on Leadership has hosted many smart articles on office politics over the years. Here are some of the lessons.

Change requires allies

Power comes in many forms: money, fame, competence, resources, leverage. But the one form that might be most important within organizations is influence. If you want to incite change in your organization, you need to be able to influence and win over people. Yes, we’ve known that since Dale Carnegie made his name selling it, and it’s still true today.

Some people, in some situations, can win support through intimidation, threats or bullying. Some people can dazzle others with fame, maybe even win them over with money (legally or otherwise). But those tactics only work so well. Instead, as Art Petty wrote in February:

The work of socializing ideas is important in every culture I’ve encountered. While some may suggest the pre-meeting lobbying reeks of politics, I describe it as strategic relationship building. Your goal is never to manipulate but rather to gain insights into the other party’s perspective and needs for the new initiative. You need and want their help. However, you want the initiative to benefit them as well.

Understand yourself

Bonnie Marcus literally wrote the book on the politics of promotion, and she shared in 2015 how a failure to distinguish between office savvy and office politics can hurt your career.

What’s the difference between politicking and being your best self? Understanding what that best self is:

In order to promote yourself well, first take the time to understand your value proposition; the unique way you deliver the work for successful business outcomes. Your value proposition gives you confidence to communicate your achievements. It enables you to see the direct relationship between your work and specific business results

Read the room

While knowing thyself is helpful, the art of observation remains an essential outward-facing activity. As Marcus separately wrote last year, people need to understand what’s going on around them, and then figure out how they can deploy that information strategically to themselves and others.

Conducting this observation helps us move forward, but it’s also a defensive strategy: 

We also need to develop a radar system to understand potential roadblocks and danger. This radar comes from a keen understanding of the people and culture of the organization. This radar system comes from the knowledge that can only be obtained from the inner circles within the workplace that both influence and make the rules of the game.

Solve problems and make it about the team

Petty agrees that office politics is inevitable, and he advocates two simultaneous tracks for people looking to access workplace power: building it yourself or tapping into available networks of power

But another angle Petty proposes is, essentially, a way to positively play office politics by solving in-between problems — what Petty calls “the gray zone.” When done well, you’ll address thorny challenges, gain notice for your expertise and be known for your generosity. As he described a product manager’s successful ascent:

She learned to identify issues getting in the way of progress or creating extra burden, and then bring the right people to bear to solve the problems. And, when she and the team were successful in eliminating a problem, she brilliantly turned the spotlight of visibility and accolades on her team members. 

Know the value of endurance and goodwill

Not every situation or workplace can avoid toxic office politics. Maybe you’re the problem, or maybe you’re the victim of an unfair situation, difficult circumstances or just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s easy for me to say “Hang in there!” even as I know the days can feel endless and stressful. And you can’t — and shouldn’t — try to do it all yourself. But the effort to be constructive and positive can serve you in the long run, as Made Brand Management CEO Dustin White wrote in 2018:

Assuming positive intent will also make your relationships with your employees in the office more productive. To do this, choose to interpret errors, comments and feedback as mistakes — not coming from a malicious place. This approach will help you keep a level head and bring out the best in every employee.

Another way to talk about “positive intent” is “goodwill,” as Steve McKee wrote in 2017. How does goodwill play out in real life?

if you have a problem with a colleague, you have the responsibility to give them the benefit of the doubt and address the issue directly, privately and respectfully. If that doesn’t work you can move it up the chain, but that happens infrequently.

Office politics is a part of life, just like elections. But the office doesn’t have to be a nasty and binary place. These lessons take time to learn and apply, and you might need to relearn them many times over. Hopefully, these articles can help you navigate office politics more smoothly and successfully.

James daSilva is the longtime editor of SmartBrief’s leadership newsletter and blog content. Contact him at @James_daSilva or by email.

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Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante releases graphic novel detailing political journey – Preeceville Progress

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Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante can now add “author” to her resume with the publication of a graphic novel in which she recounts her entry into politics and takes subtle digs at the sexism she’s encountered along the way.

‘”Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics,” tells the story of Simone Simoneau — modelled on Plante — a young community organizer who decides to take the plunge into politics by running for a seat on city council.

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Published in both English and French and co-authored by illustrator Delphie Cote-Lacroix, the book follows the initially hesitant Simoneau as she learns to fundraise, knock on doors and recruit volunteers.

Plante, 46, said she began to toy with the idea of publishing a book after she won the mayoralty in 2017. Writing a typical political autobiography didn’t appeal, she said.

“For me the graphic novel format was always what I wanted,” she said in a recent interview at her publisher’s offices.

“I think it’s accessible, it can be fun, and I love graphic novels myself.”

The book is based on Plante’s own sketches and anecdotes she began jotting down in 2013, during her first run for a seat on city council. Four years later, she became the first woman elected mayor of Montreal after her surprise defeat of experienced incumbent Denis Coderre.

While the writing and drawings were initially a form of self-care to help her “stay balanced,” she said she eventually came to see that her story might inspire others, especially young girls.

“I wanted to show, and maybe tell, people it’s OK not to have all the keys and codes to do something you think would be a good thing to do or you believe in,” she said.

“Just go for it.”

She began working with Cote-Lacroix on evenings and weekends, taking about two years to finalize the story and illustrations.

Plante said that, much like her character in the book, she had been looking for a new challenge before her entry into politics. Then she received a phone call from left-wing municipal party Projet Montreal, which was looking to diversify its slate of candidates.

In the book, Plante doesn’t shy away from the challenges faced by women who put themselves in the public eye. At one point, one of her character’s posters is defaced by sexist graffiti. In another, her character’s husband gets effusive praise for helping to care for the couple’s children — something the book points out is a given for female political spouses.

While the book “won’t change sexism,” Plante said she hopes it will help highlight the double standards women face.

Three years into her mandate, Plante has had a bumpy year, marked by a global pandemic that has devastated the city’s economy and criticism over her administration’s failure to implement its big visions for affordable housing and transportation. She has also faced anger over what some have described as an anti-car agenda, which includes building bike lanes, eliminating parking spots and temporarily closing some streets to vehicle traffic to create “sanitary corridors.”

At times, that criticism has escalated to the level of death threats.

While some criticism is to be expected, Plante attributes much of the public anger directed her way to the anxiety wrought by the pandemic.

“Not to minimize their actions of being very aggressive, violent or doing death threats, but I like to hope in the future, when people are less stressed and in a better position, things will calm down,” she said.

She also faced criticism earlier this year over her novel itself, with some high-profile commentators questioning her decision to “draw cartoons” as the city was embroiled in the COVID-19 crisis.

Plante dismissed this as unfounded, especially since she says the writing process wrapped up in late 2019.

“People were just kind of trashing the book (without) even reading it, which I thought was sad, because it wasn’t about the content, it was about criticizing the author,” she said. However, she did push back the book’s publication for a few months when the pandemic’s second wave began.

Plante said she would still recommend politics to young people who want to make a difference, even as she acknowledges it’s a “tough” career that comes with unusual levels of public exposure.

“But hopefully people see in the book, the love that you get from your volunteers, it’s a community, it’s people working together,” she said.

“It’s worth it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

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Politics

Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante releases graphic novel detailing political journey

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“For me the graphic novel format was always what I wanted,” she said in a recent interview at her publisher’s offices.

“I think it’s accessible, it can be fun, and I love graphic novels myself.”

The book is based on Plante’s own sketches and anecdotes she began jotting down in 2013, during her first run for a seat on city council. Four years later, she became the first woman elected mayor of Montreal after her surprise defeat of experienced incumbent Denis Coderre.

While the writing and drawings were initially a form of self-care to help her “stay balanced,” she said she eventually came to see that her story might inspire others, especially young girls.

“I wanted to show, and maybe tell, people it’s OK not to have all the keys and codes to do something you think would be a good thing to do or you believe in,” she said.

“Just go for it.”

She began working with Cote-Lacroix on evenings and weekends, taking about two years to finalize the story and illustrations.

Plante said that, much like her character in the book, she had been looking for a new challenge before her entry into politics. Then she received a phone call from left-wing municipal party Projet Montreal, which was looking to diversify its slate of candidates.

In the book, Plante doesn’t shy away from the challenges faced by women who put themselves in the public eye. At one point, one of her character’s posters is defaced by sexist graffiti. In another, her character’s husband gets effusive praise for helping to care for the couple’s children — something the book points out is a given for female political spouses.

While the book “won’t change sexism,” Plante said she hopes it will help highlight the double standards women face.

Three years into her mandate, Plante has had a bumpy year, marked by a global pandemic that has devastated the city’s economy and criticism over her administration’s failure to implement its big visions for affordable housing and transportation. She has also faced anger over what some have described as an anti-car agenda, which includes building bike lanes, eliminating parking spots and temporarily closing some streets to vehicle traffic to create “sanitary corridors.”

At times, that criticism has escalated to the level of death threats.

While some criticism is to be expected, Plante attributes much of the public anger directed her way to the anxiety wrought by the pandemic.

“Not to minimize their actions of being very aggressive, violent or doing death threats, but I like to hope in the future, when people are less stressed and in a better position, things will calm down,” she said.

She also faced criticism earlier this year over her novel itself, with some high-profile commentators questioning her decision to “draw cartoons” as the city was embroiled in the COVID-19 crisis.

Plante dismissed this as unfounded, especially since she says the writing process wrapped up in late 2019.

“People were just kind of trashing the book (without) even reading it, which I thought was sad, because it wasn’t about the content, it was about criticizing the author,” she said. However, she did push back the book’s publication for a few months when the pandemic’s second wave began.

Plante said she would still recommend politics to young people who want to make a difference, even as she acknowledges it’s a “tough” career that comes with unusual levels of public exposure.

“But hopefully people see in the book, the love that you get from your volunteers, it’s a community, it’s people working together,” she said.

“It’s worth it.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2020.

Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press

 

 

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Politics Briefing: Murray Sinclair to resign from Senate – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Senator Murray Sinclair says he’s ready to retire.

Mr. Sinclair announced this afternoon that he will step down from his position representing Manitoba in the Red Chamber in January, when he turns 70.

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Mr. Sinclair is one of Canada’s most respected jurists, the second Indigenous judge in Canadian history and the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which delivered its landmark report in 2015 that included 94 calls for action to the federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has committed to meet all 94 calls, appointed Mr. Sinclair to the Senate in 2016.

Mr. Sinclair told The Globe he still hopes to be a voice on the national stage, even if he is leaving Parliament Hill.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Mr. Trudeau says that even if Canada will not be among the first country to receive vaccines against COVID-19, Canadians should instead focus on the fact that most of the country could be inoculated against the virus by next fall.

The Liberal government will table its fall economic statement on Monday, which will give Canadians some idea of how large the deficit is. A C.D. Howe report suggests the government could dig its way out of debt again if it raised the GST.

Liberal and Conservative MPs shut down the pleas of the Canadian relatives of Boeing 737 Max crash victims for a public inquiry into the plane’s safety.

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Eric Duncan, the first openly gay Conservative MP, pressed the Liberal government on why they haven’t followed through with election promises to end the ban on gay men giving blood.

And Ingenium, the Crown corporation that runs Canada’s national science museums, has a new acquisition: a bottle of billion-year-old water, which was discovered at the bottom of a mine near Timmins, Ont. “It’s a credit to our spirits that despite these challenging times, we can continue doing science and doing really, really cool things like getting a hold of a water sample that’s a billion years old,” Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said.

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on vaccine nationalism: “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating is more than 14 points higher than it was this time last year, despite a tumultuous summer of scandal and enduring delays by the federal government to deliver programs such as comprehensive rapid COVID-19 testing at airports. That congeniality will run out, however, if and when Canadians are forced to watch peer nations start vaccinating their citizens while this country effectively remains in lockdown.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the vaccine challenges ahead: “At any rate, hold on – it can only get worse. Even assuming Health Canada parts with the habits of a lifetime and approves the first vaccine more or less simultaneously with its U.S. and European counterparts, and even assuming the vaccines can be shipped to Canada in advance of approval, and stored (in super-cold conditions) until then, that still leaves the ultimate logistical nightmare: getting them into the arms of millions of Canadians, safely and speedily.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on why the city of Ottawa has fared better in the pandemic than Toronto: “The capital may be, as the late Allan Fotheringham called it, the town that fun forgot, but it is also a town filled with well-educated people in white-collar jobs who mostly live in suburbs, work from home, and drive cars. That may not be a very exciting description of a city, but in a pandemic, it’s the place you want to be.”

Fariha Naqvi-Mohamed (Montreal Gazette) on the next few months: “This winter will be like no other. We need to be proactive in combatting isolation, seasonal depression and loneliness, which will only be exacerbated by the long, dark days ahead.”

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Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on battling COVID-19 fatigue: “No longer do we gush over cool scientists who wear Fluevog shoes and periodic table dresses. They’ve started to sound like mom. I love my mom; she is the best. She reminds me daily to take my vitamins. I confess, I’ve tuned her out too.”

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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