by Glenford Smith, career writer
Power, politics and people problems
I usually chuckle whenever someone tells me he or she doesn't believe in office politics. More so, I cringe when I hear the statement, "Politics is dirty, I hate anything to do with it".
The reason for my reactions is that these statements are about as na´ve as you can get. The fact is that wherever there is a group of people working together, competing against each other, or just trying to accomplish important things together, politics is always at play.
What is politics, after all? Strictly defined, politics is the science of government and the administration of political affairs. More generally, however, it refers to the art of managing your social relations to gain an advantage, power, and influence with people.
Political ineptitude in the workplace explains why the brightest, most hard-working and creative person doesn't always get promoted, compensated, or even recognised. They may be geniuses, but nobody likes them. Their careers are fraught with people problems.
Political savvy explains why some people excel at sales and others fail. It explains why some persons always get to lead at church, school, or at work, while others always look on in envy or mystification.
To excel and get ahead in your career, you must develop social intelligence along with your technical brilliance. In addition to job competence, you must also relate to others such that they like you, trust you, and want to help and support your career advancement.
A failure to do so may result in ineffectiveness, loss of influence, or even the loss of your job. Steve Jobs, late cofounder and CEO of Apple Computers, learned this lesson the hard way in 1985.
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson's brilliant biography of the tech icon, goes into stark details about his hard, driving, uncompro-mising personality and his often callous disregard for other people's feelings.
According to Isaacson, Apple's CEO John Sculley regarded Jobs as "manipulative, rude, boorish, selfish, frequently obnoxious, despicable, and nasty to people." Sculley's opinion of Jobs was also shared by all the senior staff at Apple.
Orchestrate a coup
A fierce political struggle between Jobs and Sculley created a tumultuous, toxic working atmosphere at Apple. The board met in April 1985 and unanimously sided with Sculley to relieve Jobs of responsibility for his division.
Jobs, however, was defiant. In May, he organised clandestine meetings with a few key colleagues. His goal was to orchestrate a coup to oust Sculley while he was away in China on business. But a co-conspirator revealed Jobs's plans to Sculley, who postponed his trip. He unexpectedly turned up at the planned executive staff meeting where Jobs had intended to overthrow him.
Sculley angrily confronted Jobs. He gave the senior executives a choice between him and Jobs. Every single person voted against Jobs. Sculley, whom Jobs himself had recruited to Apple, fired him from his own company.
Jobs's technical brilliance was unquestioned by all. However, his social intelligence, his political savvy, then, was quite another matter. It's an important lesson from a great man's failure, perhaps as essential as the many lessons from his remarkable successes.
Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and success strategist. Email email@example.com