Putting Yourself Out There
I know a lot of ostriches. It seems there are just too many people who go out of their way to avoid office politics at any cost because they don't want to get hurt. Getting hurt is universally bad, so anything that could cause hurt can't be good. Therefore, they want to avoid office politics.
This month, I'm volunteering some of my time for the local police departments as a role player for their RAID (Rapid And Immediate Deployment) training. The police are practicing how they would handle an "active shooter" situation, and I get to play the "bad guy." We're all using "simunition" (simulated ammunition) weapons, which is a cross between bullets and paintball. Yes, I get to shoot at cops and it's legal.
Last night was my first session with this type of police training. I've been receiving lessons in shooting and gun safety from one of the officers (believe it or not, as research for my next book), but it didn't prepare me for this experience. I ended up with many more marks on me than I'm sure I inflicted on them (and I have the welts and bruises to prove it today).
But why would I do a thing like that? Some kind of testosterone-laden perversely-masochistic fun? (OK, well, sort of.) But as I told one of the commanders, if I'm able to help an officer achieve a straighter shot or clearer thinking if the real event occurs, then putting myself out there to be bruised up a little bit for a few evenings is a worthwhile investment to me as a citizen.
Too often, we are so afraid of "being injured in the line of duty" as a cubicle dweller that we don't see the value that healthy conflict (or sometimes even unhealthy conflict) can bring to the organization to help it grow. Avoiding office politics at any cost doesn't help to propel the team forward; it generally just suppresses the inevitable explosion.
How can you change your mindset and your actions to help yourself and your team get more comfortable with conflict? Are you willing to take a couple of shots in order to make everyone stronger? How can you move from "ostrich" to "bear" in your office politics situations?