top of page

Defeating Captain Politics

Tall buildings are there for the leaping, locomotives are made for stopping and don't even mention the tardiness of a speeding bullet when compared to your possible achievements if you could just defeat your greatest foe.

That's right, the dastardly, Captain Politics. Well, prepare to don your cape!

Captain Politics is the scourge of many an otherwise successful project or team. If you are the kind of person who feels a glow of satisfaction at your ability to be "a player" then, sorry, you are the problem.

If you feel the need to spread your political wings then make sure it is strategically designed to out-think business competitors. Even then, use caution.

When was the last time you heard genuine praise for a politician?

The amount of time and energy that is sapped by petty internal conflicts is astonishing, destructive and seldom, if ever, of benefit to the business, or reputations. What's more it sets a terrible precedent that, if not checked, will spread.

When the fire catches hold and starts to burn the fingers of management, you will find your ambitions floored under a reactionary stamping down of carefully manicured feet.

Now, if you are smart--and if you are reading this, I must assume you are--you are not going to fall into the trap of trying to out-politick the competition.

It's the job of the others to stop such unproductive behaviour, but even if they do not--maybe they are too focussed on their own power struggles--don't be tempted to enter the game; wash your hands in the clear waters of common sense, and look to a long-term strategy.

Politics is a game for the ruthlessly ambitious, although it is often played by the inept.

Don't fall into either category if you want to win the war; instead, play by a different set of rules, so that no matter what kind of moves your politically-minded colleagues have, your smile signals, “checkmate.”

Let's consider the raison d'etre for our foe, Captain Politics: real name Mac E Avelian.

Mac has ambition, and ruthlessness, and wants to be leading the game in the eyes of the score-keepers. His goal is to accrue all the glory and divert all the blame. When he does something right, he will shout about it in all the right ears, and where he is outgunned by cleverer team-mates, he will whisper insidious put-downs in those same ears.

Mac's political manoeuvrings are based upon what makes Mac look the best.

He understands that the way to win the battle is to please the boss: for just long enough to manoeuvre himself up a rung of the ladder, and he cares little that the people left behind will have to pick up the pieces. Mac certainly understands the need to get out while the going is good.

Sure, you feel rightfully resentful, but it is tempered by a sigh of relief: Mac is gone! The problem is, some of your team-mates will have seen the immediate benefits of Mac's strategy and think it is a winning formula. Welcome back to Square One.

So, what to do? You must don-the-cape, place your underpants over your tightly-fitting spandex and become … Solution's Advocate Employee.

When you assume your alter-ego, you carefully place self-interest aside, and do only what is best for the project, the business and the team. It may seem like a self-sacrificing policy, but it pays long-term dividends.

By circumventing attempts at self-interest politicking, you defeat Mac because you have moved the game to a place he is not comfortable on: the business’ best interests. He relies on envy, resentment, and reciprocal pettiness to play his game; a forgiving smile, and an artfully placed question about how that idea will benefit the business, at team meeting, will stop him rolling his loaded dice.

As our diligent super-hero you have thoroughly researched the guiding principles that support your mission. I'm sure your company has a "mission statement", and that's a fine place to start. Any time a challenge to your authority by Mac is made, you will produce a carefully rehearsed line: "Does what you propose follow our guiding principles?", "How will that support the business?", "Does it add value or detract from our team's goals?".

You get the idea.

It is inevitable that some of the decisions you are forced to make to support your "Solution's Advocate Employee" sobriquet will be contrary to your own obvious self-interest.

When this happens smile-wider to yourself, modestly of course, as befits a super-hero, because nothing speaks integrity like making suggestions that are clearly not in your own interest, and wait for the lights to go on upstairs. They will lighting-up your name.

The ideas presented here are just to get you thinking, so that you can develop your own strategies. If you want to know more about how you can out-manoeuvre Captain Politics, then let me know, and … well, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.


A new blog post comes out every week-or-so, on different topics. Please, sign-up if you want to be alerted when a new one lands, and to make suggestions about topics you'd like to see covered. It's free.

Do you have your own Captain Politics? Maybe, I can help ...

I am always happy to answer questions. Please contact me with your specific issue.

A workshop on dealing with office politics is coming in August. Come back soon for details, (or sign-up for notification.)

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page