The Gloves Must Come Off
Since we are talking about my latest experience with the SWAT team, a funny thing happened later in the evening. After it was too dark to do any more non-flash photography, I volunteered to be a role player (bad guy) in some of their scenarios. During the few couple of runs through the exercise, I was compliant and followed orders. Then the field training officer suggested I could be a little contrarian with the cops (he knows me too well). Hence, I got roughed around a little, and was cuffed a few times. Our last time through the exercise, the cuffs refused to unlock. Try after try to uncuff me was met with equal failure. They were having a great time joking that I would have fun explaining to my wife why I was showing up at home in handcuffs. Finally, 15 minutes, 7 cops, and 3 sets of keys later, I started to pull off my gloves and found the problem: the cuff of my glove was caught in the cuff. So while I pulled on my cuff, one officer turned the key while the other manipulated the cuff which finally freed me.
We have the same problem in office politics. Sometimes there is something seemingly unnoticeable that is "caught" in the conflict. We may not notice it at first and keep trying the same old techniques to resolve the conflict as before, only to make matters worse because we haven't stopped to understand all angles of the office politics issue. Only when we "take off the gloves" do we see what is really happening underneath and be able to solve it.
This glove-cuff-catch may come in the form of our personal beliefs about a person (ever try negotiating project resources with a workaholic sponsor who thinks everyone should put in 100-hour work weeks?) or it may be company policies (what procedures are making everybody's jobs more difficult instead of easier?). Our job as office politicians ia to figure out how to pull off the gloves to figure out these catches... BEFORE they occur.
Ask yourself the following before you engage somebody on a conflict or a politically sensitive point: