Being politically correct is bad for business
You’ll never find “navigating office politics” on your leadership competency models. Yet, learning to navigate office politics is a vital skill in most organizations. This dangerous dynamic wastes time and energy and slows down decision-making. The damaging side effects of office politics take on many forms. Employees who have great ideas, bite their tongues so they don’t tick off the leader who created the stupid policies in the first place. Managers hire the less qualified candidate because their boss thinks he’s the right pick. Employees spend precious time schmoozing the VP when they really need to be finishing the project. When leaders foster a culture where politically correct trumps common sense, everyone suffers.
5 Characteristics of office politics to avoid
Instead of role modelling truth-telling and common sense-having, many managers reinforce the importance of office politics, by teaching their teams and mentees, the right way to “get things done around here.” They share the best way to kiss up to get what you need to be done, who to include to stroke their ego, and when to just shut up and salute.
1. Poor decisions
When the desire for political correctness trumps truth-telling, important insights are lost in translation. As an executive, I’m always amazed when I hear through the grapevine what folks think I will or won’t “like.” Even when leaders want to know the truth, it’s easy for others to second guess what they’re looking for. What “Karin wants,” is the good, bad and the ugly, and your true thoughts on what we should do. Anything less will weaken our mission.
2. Blocked learning
When leaders reinvent history to “protect” those who made the decision or to justify poor outcomes, they sacrifice the important learning that comes from making mistakes. Much better for the “protected” to admit they’ve screwed up before anyone is trying to save them the embarrassment. Leaders can help others save face by creating a culture where mistakes are accepted as part of the learning process.
3. Inferior talent
Many organizations have a long list of unspoken criteria they use to select candidates before they get to the truly most qualified. The best candidate is the one with a unique set of talents and skills to create breakthrough results, not the one who’s built a career working to offend no one, or who fits some gap in the diversity profile.
4. Wasted time
Much time is wasted when people tell others what they think they want to hear or spin their words into politically correct code. Be polite, be sensitive and kind, but save us all some time and tell the truth.
5. Employee Engagement
Nothing’s more frustrating to employees at the front line than to see their bosses making poor choices for political reasons. Strong leaders create a culture where “ politically correct ” and correct are as closely aligned as possible.
If you want game-changing results, do everything you can to buffer the nonsense, scaffold your team, and always have their backs when they do the right thing, even if it is politically clumsy.
Your turn: How does a desire to be politically correct, hurt your business?