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Where office politics thrive, there are ‘work enemies’

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OVER THE past month we explored ‘office politics’.

Where office politics thrive, there are ‘work enemies’ and in many organizations, evidently, leaders cultivate negative office politics. However, Thomas D. Cairns in an article titled “Power, Politics, and Leadership in the Workplace”, said, “The antithesis of engaging in negative office politics is exercising positive political skill and the exercise of political skill is most effective when it is invisible to the outcomes achieved. In other words, political skill is like the wind: people feel its effects, but do not see what caused it.”

Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist said “People will follow leaders who create a common enemy, but they’re inspired by leaders who create a common vision. The purpose of leadership is not to divide and conquer. It is to unite people in service of a greater good.”

I came across a story of a father who demonstrated to his sons how vulnerable they are divided and the strength in unity. It is said that the father had sons who were perpetually quarrelling among themselves. Determine to mend the rift among the brothers, one day, he asked his sons to bring him bundles of sticks. He placed a bundle of sticks in the hands of each of the sons in succession and asked them to break it in pieces. They tried with all their might but were unable to. The father opened the bundle and placed the sticks, one by one, in the hands of the sons, they broke them easily. He then addressed

them in these words: “My sons, if you are of one mind, and unite to assist each other, you will be as strong as this bundle of sticks, uninjured by all the attempts of your enemies, but if you are divided among yourselves, you will be broken as easily as these sticks.”

The ancient proverb “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” suggests that opponents can work together against a common enemy. This was illustrated during the 1985 Geneva Summit, when former U.S. President Ronald Reagan asked Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev whether the Soviet Union would help the United States if it were attacked by aliens from outer space. Although Gorbachev was baffled, he agreed that the Soviet Union will join forces with the US to defeat what will be considered a common enemy. What’s your common workplace enemy?

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