Politics at the workplace

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“Politics” could be defined as the art of weaving your way in the organisational context.  Does politics exist in organizations ?  The answer is a resounding “yes”.  Do you need to indulge in politics to be successful in your career ?  My answer would be a resounding “no” from my life experiences.  While behavioural scientists may say that “politics” is not a dirty word and they may be right.  According to them, politics is the art of using the ogranization’s human networks to your advantage.  

I am not against “networking” and using your networks to get your things done as suggested by the social scientists.  What I am against is to indulge in “political behaviour” in your day to day work.  This means simply that you are indulging in “behind the back” gossip.  This results in lack of trust in your team members and saps away the energy of the team.  A lot of organisational energy is used in resolving conflicts and misunderstandings rather than building bonds.

How can one avoid politics as a leader ?  This is a question many people leaders have asked me during the course of my career.   My answer is simple.  As a leader, one needs to clarify the “Dos & Don’ts” of behaviour expected in your team.  Further, one needs to lead by example what you expect from others.  For eg. I clearly encourage my team to raise any issue with anyone and sort it out face to face rather than talk behind the back.  Gossip or talking behind one’s back may be the fountain head of organisational politics.  This needs to be actively discouraged and even punished, if necessary.

On the other hand, if someone wants to build relationships so as to get things done, it is not politics in my definition.  After all organizations are nothing but a network of relationships between people working in different functions.  It is essential to build networks and relationships to get things done effectively.  We need to do everything to enable our team members to network across the organisation and build these relationships.

It is only when a team member ends up misusing a relationship or a network to gossip, politics sets in.  Politics in my view is like a wild fire in a dry summer forest. If not nipped in the bud, it can spread across the organisation and will be very difficult to put off.  I have been asked many a time as to how one can avoid these webs of organisational politics.  It is up to us.  If we want to stay clear of it, we can clearly and unambiguously communicate the same to our team members and colleagues and it works.

I have also been asked if one can be successful in one’s career without being political.  I believe so and have practised it all through my career.  Being a HR professional, I have seen most successful people do not indulge in politics, as I have defined it.  Further, this also ensures that your energy is chanelized to do more creative work in your domain.  Teams work with high energy and enjoy their work without any fear or barriers.

In my view, “politics” in the organisational context is counter productive if not channelised to build networks and relationships.  As a leader, it is up to us to define the rules of the game for our team and ensure nobody crosses the line.  If many of our team members play foul, we not only lose the game but also create poor team spirit and negative energy within the team.

Let us define the rules of our game today and lead by example to ensure others follow it.

S Ramesh Shankar

The sunset


The sunset has always been a source of joy for me.  Like Keats said, ” A thing of beauty is joy forever”.  Watching a sun set and taking photos has been a source of inspiration for me always.  If you ask me, I do not know why ?.  Scientists tell us that it is safer to watch a setting sun than a rising one because of the infra red and other harmful rays.  I watch the setting sun as it is a source of beauty and happiness for me.

As the sun sets in the horizon, we have the multicolour formation of the clouds.  No artist in the world can paint it.  No designer can visualise it.  It is the creation of nature and the gift of God. What amazes me more is that every day is a new design.  A new formation.  A new spread of colours.  The combination of colours is electrifying.  It soothes your mind and quenches your heart with emotions.

The setting sun signifies many things to me.  It declares the end of the day and the beginning of the night.  It means that life has both days and night.  While it may be easier to work in the day but much more difficult in the night.  The sun set prepares us for the difficulties of the night.  It cautions us to prepare for the more challenging phase of life.

I am lucky to travel to different parts of the world as part of my work.  Although I do not travel very often but every visit to a new place teaches me some thing.  The last time I was in Germany I was talking about sun sets with someone.  They told me how lucky we are that we have the sun for most part of the year in India.  As Indians we consider bright sun light as signifying higher temperatures and coupled with humidity, it definitely makes it a tougher day to bear.  But imagine life without much sun light.  If you live in countries, where the appearance of the sun is rare, you know what I mean.

The sun is not only a source of energy.  It brightens our life.  It balances nature. It helps us maintain our moods.  I recently experienced the absence of the sun for almost a week during the recent monsoon and I realised how much I missed it. I appreciate the reasons for depression and mood swings in the countries, where the appearance of the sun is a luxury.

The sunset may mark the end of the day.  But it also gives us hope that although we may have to spend a cold night but the rising sun the next day will give us hope and warmth back.  We miss something when we do not have enough of it.  In countries where the appearance of the sun is a phenomenon, its highly valued.  But in nations like India, where there is abundance of sunlight, we value it less till the day we miss it.

I am amazed by nature and everything around us. It is a great source of joy and happiness.  The sun, the moon, the earth, the tree, the sea, the mountains and so on.  If we sit back and reflect, we realise that we are privileged to learn so much from all of them.  Each of them is a mystery and a source of inspiration.  If at all we are willing to keep our eyes and ears open all the time, learning can never end.

The sun sets today to rise again tomorrow.  Let us also resolve to bounce back in life if at all we go through a bad patch in life like the sun does every day for us.

S Ramesh Shankar

The sound of “Silence”


I love the sound of “Silence”.  When you are in the midst of a rain forest, the only sound you hear is that of the dew drops on the tree leaves or the song of the birds.  It makes you reflect in solitude.  The greenery around you makes you fresh like the morning dew.  It energises you and enables you to sync with nature.  The tweaking of the old branches in the cool breeze of the forest or the thumping paws of a wild animal on the morning wet pathway are the only sounds around you.

The farther you are away from the city, the more the forest haunts you.  It makes you realize how much mankind has killed nature in the name of development. The orange forest flame ignites your mind.   The butterflies kindle your imagination. The whistling sound of the wind calms you down and makes you sit up.  All this makes you realize that the pollution of the traffic and noise of the roads do not drain you any more.  It is the fragrance of the forest, which soothes your soul here.

I got up early in the morning, went for a short walk and then a therupatic ayurvedic massage rejuvenated my body.  The breakfast filled my stomach and then it was time to sit and reflect in this lap of nature. When you are drowned in the noise of the city, your thoughts get choked, your emotions drained and mind wanders in the quest for materiality of life.  You forget to live life to its full potential.

What does nature offer us ?  We have huge trees giving us oxygen, the leaves brightening our sight, the birds singing the melody and the smell of the forest calming our mind.  You realize that nature has so much to give us and we give nothing back in return.  On the contrary, we give back trash, pollution, noise and tonnes of plastic to ruin the earth.

I can be myself when I am in the lap of nature.  It brings out the best in me.  It can connect the mind, body and soul.  It brings you closer to God. It makes you realize the power of the super power.  The sunlight appears brighter, the air is cooler and the music of nature is melodious. The environment makes your reflective.  You are willing to be one with nature.

Why do we ruin nature inspite of all that she gives us every day ?  I have no answer except to believe that human beings are greedy. We always want more from nature than we give back.  We want life to be better every day and are willing to squeeze all the natural resources around us without worrying on how we could nurture nature for the future.

It is time to wake up.  It is time to commit that we will give back at least half of what we get from nature.  We can make simple commitments.  We will not pollute the environment around us.  We will live more organically.  We will reduce the use of plastic.  We minimise the use of cars, bikes and aeroplanes.  We will plant more trees and nurture nature in all possible ways.

We need to remember that our kids will get what we leave behind.  Our fore fathers gave us such a beautiful world.  We need to commit to leave behind a better world for our future generations.

S Ramesh Shankar

 Sangati ( good company)


Do we get influenced by the company we are in ?  May be  or may be not.   We grow up in the family and imbibe the values of our family.  Our parents and siblings become our role models in life.  We learn the good and bad things from them.  We also imbibe the habits  of our family as we grow up.  Then as get into adolescence, we do get influenced by our friends.  Our friends influence us more than our family. 

Our friends mean more to us than our family at this stage of our life.  We study together, play together and sometimes even like to sleep together. In this process, we learn and adopt the good and the bad habits from each other.  We work hard and attend tution classes together.  We also end up smoking and drinking together.  We want to live life on our own terms.  We tend to defy our parents and do not like to be advised on anything in life.

As we grow up as adults, we take control of our life.  We leave our parental homes in search of a dream career.  We live independently and now it is our colleagues at work and friends in life, who make all the difference.  We spend more time at work and with friends.  We learn from them and share our learnings with them too.  At this stage of life, we are influenced by our boss and colleagues at work.  Further, our friends also evolve as our advisors.

Then many of us get married and our spouse becomes an integral part of our life.  We listen to each other more than anyone else in our life.  We share the good and bad news with each other.  We balance each others lives.  We lead our life as partners.  There are times of conflict, where we may fight with each other and even dislike each other’s intereference.  But, that is part and parcel of the institution of marriage.

Now, in all these stages of life, how does good company ( sangati ) make a difference at all.  It is true that our character and deeds are determined by the company we keep in life.  During our school and college days, we learn from our classmates and hence if we spend time with people who are smarter than us, we evolve smarter in life.  Similarly in college, our habits are moulded by the company we keep.  We excel in sports, arts or academics based on the influence of our friends.

On the other hand, it is also true that many of our bad habits are contributed to a great extent by the company we keep.  We end up making smoking or drinking as a habit with the influence of our peers.  Of course, we cannot blame our friends alone for any habit we develop in life.  However, it is true that our company has a huge impact in our life at this stage.

So, we learn as we grow old that yes the company we keep determines our life behaviours and habits.  Some of us realise earlier than others.  But all of us learn along the way and try to change whenever necessary.  It is up to us to decide whom we want to spend our life with.

In the photo above, the company of your colleagues makes you share happy moments of your life.  It is this spirit of fellowship, which energises you to participate and win in life.

Even the famous Hindu scripture “Bhajagovindam” states, that “The company of the good weans one away from false attachments; from non-attachment comes freedom from delusion, when the delusion ends, the mind becomes unwavering and steady and from an unwavering and steady mind comes Jeevat Mukti (liberation even in this life).”

Our company in life is our choice.

S Ramesh Shankar