A great writer friend of mine, Tom Lowery, asked this week if I would consider a piece on office politics. In 30 years of corporate experience he’s been dismayed at the number of times strong participants have been tossed to the curb in favor of those who used not their job skills but their carefully honed political strengths to succeed.

I’ve made that observation myself. I recall complaining many years ago about the high conflict politics that seemed to run rampant at the major organization that employed an individual who was close to me at the time.His response: “You don’t like it because you’re not good at it. So you’ve made it out to be ‘wrong.’”

Much as I hated to admit it, he had a point. He worked for a company that thrived on “constructive confrontation,” and the theory that the atmosphere would force participants to defend their positions thoroughly. The perspective held that high confrontation would allow the strongest vantage points (and executives) to prevail. However, even after I’d given the idea full consideration beyond my “knee-jerk” reaction to the culture’s high stress, it was still clear the environment could never work well for me.

The company was Intel, and it obviously did very well. During the time period from 1987-1997 Intel’s stock value increased by 2,400%, and then-CEO Andy Grove has been credited for helping to transform the world of PC and semiconductor technology as we know it.

Still, as a culture, I hated it. Interestingly, from the writings and reports of others I can see I’m far from alone.

Yet, according to U.S. workers, office politics is with us to stay. A study of 400 U.S. workers from staffing firm Robert Half International says that nearly 60 percent of workers believe that involvement in office politics is at least somewhat necessary to get ahead. There is at least some degree of politics at play in virtually every organization, Robert HalfInternational’s Chairman and CEO Max Messmer reports.

Here’s my friend Lowery’s recommendation, as a professional corporate trainer: “As opposed to teaching people to ‘suck it up and deal with it,’ I find it more useful to guide people towards working in environments which are in keeping with their personalities and systems of beliefs. Surely this is a far better way for people to achieve a level of personal and professional satisfaction.”

I agree. My own career and even my personal life would have been a train wreck in the high conflict environment of Intel from 1987-1997 (although I certainly didn’t complain about the rise in my stock.) Since then, Intel’s culture seems to have evolved for the better, according to interviews with current CEO Paul Otellini. I applaud Otellini and Intel for making that positive change. Thankfully, I have the opportunity as the leader of a consulting organization to have much more influence (if not control) of the team dynamics we foster. We purposely align ourselves with the clients who adhere to our philosophies of mutual respect and a culture of teamwork as well.

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