#SHRM18: Playing Politics

I have always hated playing politics at work. In an ideal world, we would all say what we mean, mean what we say and not have to play games to get sh*t done. But we don’t live in an ideal world and that means we have to play the political game to get stuff done. After seeing Dr. Karlyn Borysenko‘s Zen Your Work presentation at #SHRM18, I knew her Playing Politics was one I couldn’t miss. I was tweeting fast & furious, but I still know I missed a few parts. Good news is she is coming out with a book later this year


Somewhere along the way Politics took on a negative connotation. Office politics are just the unspoken rules about how to get stuff done in the workplace. You need to figure out the politics in order to facilitate change in the workplace.

Karlyn shared 5 principles to help us humanize the people we work with to get sh*t done (seriously should have been the title, but she cleaned it up for the professional world.)

Principle 1: People are not logical or rational. The primitive part of our brain makes most of our decisions, which are based on survival, food and sex. If the decision doesn’t involve one of those, our next oldest brain uses emotion to make the decision. Very rarely does the new brain, the thinker brain, get involved. We make our decisions and then find the data to back up the decision.


Principle 2: Relationships are the goal at work. You NEED people to like you. You need people to see you as an influencer and people don’t want to be influenced by people they don’t like. Building strong relationships at work can be your secret weapon to getting stuff done. You don’t need to be best-buds with everyone and respect is not an emotion (even if some people think it is). We need to be empathetic, flexible, likable, vulnerable,  an advocate and we need to know when to keep our mouths shut. We don’t need to attend every argument we are invited to. Being right is less important than being Effective [man oh man how much did I need to hear that one! Now, to remember & put it into practice]. Now you cannot wait until you need something to start building these relationships. Start today!


Principle 3: People have different tendencies. Which means you may need to engage in someone’s emotional needs to make a connection. You need to make an emotional connection to get someone to engage. We need to listen to them: let them vent, validate their emotion and then help them move forward. Treat your employees they way they want to be treated: as a human being.


Principle 4: Find the Win-Win. Somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the art of compromise. We think that Win-Win means everyone gets exactly what they want, and that is so not true. We need to be willing to give a little to get what we want or need.

We talk about how people are afraid of change, but they aren’t. Things change all the time. People are afraid of what they are going to lose in the change. We need to help employees understand #WIIFM. And if your employees are connected with you, they will assume you have good intentions toward them.

Principle 5: Pick your Battles. You don’t have to attend every battle you are invited to and you definitely don’t need to lose your political capital in an effort to prove you are right.

So, how can we apply this to our Human Resources world?

  • Humanize your colleagues.
  • Build real connections with them.
  • Be empathetic.
  • Be flexible.
  • Be likeable.
  • Be vulnerable
  • Know when to keep your mouth shut.
  • Be an advocate for your employees.
  • Balance building good relationships with doing good work.

Be sure to connect with Dr. Karlyn Borysenko on Twitter and via her website to learn more. She has wonderful resources on her website. Be sure to pre-order her book for exclusive content!!

And check out the whole Twitter feed here on Wakelet.

2 thoughts on “#SHRM18: Playing Politics

  1. Pingback: Prosky: #ZenYourWork – My Dailey Journey

  2. Pingback: #HRSocialHour Episode 33 with @DrKarlynB – My Dailey Journey

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