Politics in the Workplace


FountainBlue’s August 12 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership Series event was on the topic of Politics in the Workplace, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Below are notes from the conversation. 

We were fortunate to have such dynamic panelists representing a wide range of perspectives, skills and educational backgrounds to speak on the politics topic. Their wisdom, energy and generosity touched us all. 

Below is a compilation of their from-their-trenches advice on how we can all better navigate the inevitable political situations at work. 

About Politics

  • Accept that politics is a part of life and have that positive, productive mind set as you manage the politics and ride those waves!
  • See the opportunity with every challenge, and help others to do the same.
  • Remember that thoughts lead to words, which leads to behaviors, which define your brand and reflect your values. Then manage, think, speak and act accordingly.
  • If others are wrestling in the mud, don’t necessarily join them in their game, but do understand why they are wrestling and help them disentangle from that fray and engage in a positive and productive direction. Ignoring the mud-wrestling might mean that you and others can become a victim, and that the energy lost in the wrestling would make the team and company less powerful, so respect the conflict and the positions of those engaging in the conflict.

About Yourself as a Leader

  • Know your values and stand by them – don’t compromise those values because a leader or a project takes you in that direction. Find or create another way, or decide that’s your walking point and forge an alternate path.
  • Embrace the learnings from all situations, particularly from those which don’t go as expected.
  • Be kind and empowering and collaborative with others for their success feeds to that of others.
  • Be calm, while also being firm, direct and fair.

Strategies for Managing Through Political Situations

  • Not everyone engaged in the conflict will be able to fall into the fold. But most people can disengage and commit if you ask in a way that benefits all. But for those who can’t do that, help them choose another path, for their energy would only bring everyone else down.
  • Be direct and transparent and vulnerable and open minded when working through politically-charged situations.
  • Do your homework and understand the motivations of all stakeholders. Put on your business hat and decide that best use of dollars and resources to get the job done, focusing on results and numbers rather than on political connections and promises.
  • Having those direct conversations in politically charged situations will help manage emotions, expectations and ultimately, productivity.
  • Choose a company and a team which values meritocracy in thoughts, words and actions. Do your part in helping that company hold that gold standard.

Lifting People Up Above the Politics

  • Spread your learnings to others in a way that benefits all.
  • Taking a hill is not as important as empowering others to climb the mountain.
  • Be that role model for others, aligning all to the short term and long term goals for the company. This sets the culture, the tone for the company.
  • Embrace feedback as a gift, a learning opportunity. Give the gift of feedback to others as well.
  • Make others feel welcome, valued and included.
  • Set up people, teams, and the company for measurement-based success.
  • Bring emotions down and logic up with every politically charged confrontation.
  • Help others embrace the discomforts which inevitably come with change, for change is a core trait for innovative tech companies.

All in all, to be successful in navigating politics, be:

  • other-centric, so that the perspectives of others feeds to your own understanding;
  • open-minded, so that you can see different sides of a problem;
  • positive and constructive, so that all can be productive;
  • cross-functional, so that people are engaged across an organization;
  • cross-company, so that collaborations exist between companies;
  • resilient, so that you can learn from your own mistakes and that of others;
  • the change you seek (Gandhi).

I’ll end with an image. If you have a basket of crabs, you don’t have to put a lid on them, for they would never collaborate with each other to get out of the basket! This is the embodiment of a political quagmire. To help make sure that bad things don’t happen to good people, rise above that basket, and work with each other to escape and find a new reality.



Please join me in thanking our gracious hosts at Samsung and our panelists!

  • Facilitator Linda Holroyd, CEO, FountainBlue – Executive Coach, Tech Adviser and Leadership Consultant
  • Panelist Shubha Govil, Head of Products, Cisco DevNet, Cisco
  • Panelist Sylvie Kadivar, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing, Samsung
  • Panelist Maricela Monge, Senior Director of HR, LifeScan
  • Panelist Eileen Sullivan, Vice President Project Management Governance, UXC Eclipse
  • Panelist Michele Taylor-Smith, Sr. Director Channel Marketing, Nutanix

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