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Shooting Holes

Index3 It's fun to go "trolling for blogs."  Just doing a Technorati search on any ol' topic that comes to mind and see what pops up.  With my new focus on office politics, it seemed like a good idea to see what was already on the blogosphere.  Consultant Edward B. Toupin posted an article entitled "The Fairness of Office Politics...Integrity and Political Motivation" on Fishing Mastery (unless there's one heckuva lure I don't know about, I'm not sure why he posted an article on office politics on a blog about fishing... but that's another story).

Regardless, Toupin managed to get under my skin by touting one of the oldest myths of office politics (in his own words):  "I have to say that the words integrity and politics do not belong in the same sentence.  This is in no way an insult to corporate politicians, but politics is not a reflection of the integrity of the individual."

So many holes to shoot in his article... so little blog space.

First, based on what I read, it appeared as though Toupin was using integrity interchangeably with ethics and morals... to which I say, "Knock if off, Ed!"  The way in which people play politics is a complete reflection of their integrity.  Integrity is the consistency of behavior and values, not the quality of them.  I've known complete jerks who are jerks 24-7... equal opportunity offenders.  That's still high integrity in that they don't change their behavior or values situationally.

Second, he appears to lump all office politicians (and their behaviors and motivations) equally.  In future posts, I will dig into this topic in more depth, but there are actually three general categories of politicians:

  • Snakes - the backstabbers only out for their own gain and glory who will do whatever it takes to win
  • Ostriches - the avoiders who do not wish to engage in politics but withdraw completely, sometimes to their (and others') detriment
  • Bears - the sensible policians who engage in politics for the greater good of the team, department or company and know when it makes sense to play defense vs. offense.

Third, he appears to be saying "ethics be damned - if you need to play politics then just do it."  That assumes that ethics, morals, and values are mutually exclusive of political behavior.  Steve Farber just completed a couple of posts on the Golden Rule.  If we take the Judeo-Christian stance a little further, it does not take much effort to see the Bible full of politicians (again... so many examples... so little blog space... I'll have to do a future series just on Bible characters as office politicians).

Fourth, he separates the behavior of the individual from the behavior of the organization, almost removing personal accountability for political behavior as a by-product of corporate culture.  I've worked in very political organizations, and I will not argue with him that some corporate cultures take on a life of their own with respect to politics, but that does not excuse the individual choices each of us makes to contribute to or refute a culture that does not align with our personal values.

Over the last five months, I've tried to be polite with other bloggers when I don't agree with them.  This one I can't ignore.  It's because of philosophies like the one in Toupin's post that office politics has developed such a stigma.  My goal is cast office politics in a new light.  If Mr. Toupin reads this and thinks I've misrepresented his views, I certainly invite him to weigh in; if I've incorrectly stated anything, I'll happily correct and apologize.

So... what do you think?  Are office politics mutually exclusive of integrity, ethics, values, and/or morality?  (Hey, I warned you to strap yourselves in for this topic.)

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Comments

Lucia Mancuso

I have integrity - lots of it - and I have definitely been a part of office politics.

I know I've been the Bear many times - and then caught myself and tried to be the Ostriche.

No matter how great of a person you are - how much you want what is best for others - there is a part of you that has a natural instinct of "survival of the fittest" and at times in the work place fear sucks you in.

I don't think that your are a person without integrity for engaging in office politics - I think your human.

I do however believe that office politics can be hightened when upper managment engages in this with there employees - it makes it harder for the employee not to engage in fear of rejection and job security.

This corporate culture is the worst kind and it exists most definitley - yes as an emplyee you have a choice but as always as managment - leading by example and making a statment about your negative feelings towards office politics will likely give the office a better chance of a political free space.

Rich

Can I shoot a hole in your hole shooting???

If you look up integrity in the dictionary you will see three definitions, the first of which points to adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.

The other two refer to consistency or completeness or perfection.

In common usage of today's english, most of us associate integrity with ethics, or moral rectitude. At least someone who stands on principles.


-- I couldn't find Mr. Toupin's post, but I can assume that he is totally sideways with politics.

However, when you correct someone, especially semantically, you should at least make sure that you check the dictionary.

And while I agree with most of your post, I couldn't resist the chance to shoot more holes.

I really like your snakes, ostriches and bears. I think that about sums it up.

Timothy Johnson

Well, Rich, did I say I WASN'T including that definition? My problem is people who exclusively equate integrity and morals. So, technically it wasn't a semantics gaffe. And, you may rest assured that I do check my dictionary. But thank you for spending time on a semantics lesson when there are bigger issues of office politics at stake. Much appreciated.

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