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Finding Meaningful Work amidst Politics

By: Mark Guterman

hand-65688_1280Item:  Comment in a recent training:  “Politics gets in the way of vision sometimes.”

Item:  Heard in a coaching session:  “Politics is making it hard for me to see where I’m going or how to plan my career path.”

Item:  Observed:  Two co-workers with different “status” get into a struggle about the direction of a specific project.  Guess whose opinion prevailed?

Politics are everywhere we work, all the time, for better, and often for worse.  They can be nearly invisible or so obvious as to make them all but impossible to ignore.  Depending on the culture, the way people are managed and led, the policies and procedures, politics can be a minor annoyance or they can be a major barrier any time we are trying to get things done.  Regardless of your work place’s political environment or how you feel about politics, there are several things that lead to greater meaning at work.

Make your “peace” with the politics.  The more time and energy you devote to thinking about or trying to deal with the politics, the less you have to perform well or design your future.  Furthermore, engaging in politics is, by definition, a risky endeavor, where there are always winners and losers.  You are better off to be mindful of the politics, try to minimize their impact on you, and move on with a smile on your face.

Do not ignore politics or pretend that they don’t exist. If you do, you run the risk of being labeled “naïve,” and may find yourself blindsided now and then by people or circumstances that could have been mitigated had you been noticing the signals and clues around you.  Paying attention to your environment is a good practice in and of itself, and it will pay dividends in subtle and useful ways.

Look for allies and supporters in the fog of confusion and mixed messages.  Regardless of the political climate, you can always find others who will be see things as you do and who will be on your side.  These people may be hard to spot and it will take energy to cultivate these relationships, particularly in highly charged environments.  However, the effort you put in will make your daily life much more meaningful, as well as providing you with needed outlets when things may be going off the rails.

Own, claim, and do your best to work according to your values.  This final point is probably the most difficult and high risk strategy, but ultimately, the “truth” of who you are and how you move forward is the real test for achieving meaningful work. If you allow the politics of work to trump your values, you not only become a victim to your circumstances, but you have only yourself to blame its debilitating effects.  Working according to your values is the best vaccination for the politics in your work life.

MeaningfulCareers.com was created by Mark Guterman and Dan King, two guys with a shared commitment to the power of meaningful work.  They help professionals find greater meaning in their careers, lead happier, more satisfying lives, and instill lasting value through their work.  For more information and resources visit:  http://meaningfulcareers.com


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