Politics shouldn’t be a dirty word at your startup

My friend Ben Casnocha recently published a post about status and power:

It’s a good post, but what really struck me was one of the comments.  The commenter wrote:

“Sorry, I have to unsubscribe after reading this… Manipulation, office politics–whatever you want to call it, I don’t like it if it interferes with getting work done. Too many lives are wasted to preserve someone else’s ego. I left my regular job and started working for myself full-time in part because of this nonsense. Everyone should treat everyone else with respect but this does not need to be a game.”

While this is a common feeling, it’s also hopelessly naive.  There’s a school of thought, especially prevalent among young technical founders, that “politics” is a bunch of BS that keeps you from getting work done.

It is true that internal politics can be an enormous waste of time and effort.  I’ve done consulting work for Fortune 500 companies where senior managers spent an entire 2 hour meeting making decisions without ever citing an actual customer!

But it’s also true that things like building relationships and doing the work behind the scenes to generate consensus can help your startup achieve its goals.

In the end, politics is simply the art of influencing people.  While it can be abused, it’s a tool that every entrepreneur should have in his or her toolkit.

2 thoughts on “Politics shouldn’t be a dirty word at your startup

  1. It always seems that polticking is about the I and not as much about the we. I do understand that getting people to do things is an art to a certain extent.

    But let's assume, for example, the person you're trying to get something done with is inept. Is it politics to call him or her out? Is it politics to go to his or her boss and say that it isn't working?

    Maybe I just need to expand my meaning of politics in the workplace to reduce its charge. But by doing so, there are far too many people who will misinterpret the word and use it in a selfish way.

    Although I suppose no matter what words I use, it will be the same thing.

  2. People seem to treat "politics" and "persuasion" as different. The two are synonyms.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *