Uncharted #3: Office Politics
David is a Headstarter who loves RnB, can bust a ‘memorable’ move on a wedding dance floor and overall top bloke. Just as Marie Kondo has made the words “spark joy” sound differently now, David has made the words “chorizo”, “babyface”, “smash brothers” sound differently now. Here is his summary of Unpacked #3: Office Politics - Is this Game of Thrones?
This term’s theme at Headstart has been UNCHARTED – the notion that we all create “mind maps” of our life to help us navigate it. If you have a clear “mind-map” of something, it’s much easier to navigate than if you don’t. For example, if I asked you to find a teaspoon in your kitchen, you could do that very quickly. If I asked you to find a teaspoon in MY kitchen, you’d have a much harder time because you don’t have a “mind-map” there (and also because I don’t use teaspoons, we are strictly a spork-only household). In that vein, Mark helped provide us a Bible-driven mind-map for “Office Politics”, so we can better chart this sticky topic.
For most, the concept of Office Politics is likely to induce revulsion – perhaps you think of a zero-sum game played in tiredly again and again in offices, families and of course, government. But is this a warranted response?
Charting Office Politics – What are dealing with
To start us off, Mark turned to the dictionary and showed us two ways we chart about Office Politic.
Firstly, there’s the boring one to do with principles of governance and checks and balances. Think parliamentary question time. The second definition is the one that grips us. It’s the idea of politics being a “game” - politics is when someone tries to influence or gain power - and it was this one which caused strong emotions to bubble up.
When the room was polled for opinions, responses such as “let down by the system”, “stems from greed” and “suspicious” flowed in. Like the dragons in Game of Thrones, Headstarters had been burned or been burnt by this kind of politics.
(Tangent: This made my mind wonder… if only Parliamentary Question Time was more like Game of Thrones… if only the last leadership spill ended with ScoMo crushing Turnbull’s skull with his bare hands while Shorten birthed dragons, I’d be much more in tune with Australian politics.)
Charting Office Politics – From the Bible
What surprised me was that when it came to the Bible, politics was on every page. From family politics (Adam & Eve, Jacob & Esau) to institutional politics (King Jeroboam in the OT split of Israel, Paul’s Roman citizenship) to the power games (King David functionally killing Uriah and seducing Bathsheba). In this, the Bible acknowledges the existence of politics.
In fact, the Bible goes one step further than acknowledgement. The Bible adopts political language to describe good relationships. The most notable example is in Phillipians 3:20, where we are reminded that “our citizenship is in heaven”. Our relationship with God is inherently political.
Finally, God presents himself as the ultimate politician in the death and resurrection of Jesus. While the nations conspired against God and his annointed one, God uses them in the ultimate gamesmanship to bring about victory and do exactly what he had always planned. God is a pro politician. He is OP.
Politics is part of our daily experience. It’s part of our identity. It’s a strength of God. All of this validates the place of politics in God’s world.
Ignoring the existence of politics in the world is not feasible for Christians – politics is part of the world God has built. In fact, because being a Christian is political, means we can conduct ourselves in a different way when office politics arise.
I remember my workplace used to be very proud that we were a flat-structured, tight company where office politics wasn’t a factor – senior leadership would say the worst workplace politics was the temperature of the aircon.
This was largely true – it was and is a very good place to work. However, statements about office politics not existing didn’t ring as true when things changed – for example, when I got a new manager on week 1 of my annual leave and they were fired by week 3.
As pointed out by Mark, there are innumerable articles that will flood you with tips – don’t stew over injustice, put yourself in other people’s shoes, etc. etc.
But in honesty – if we believe in Jesus, turns out there’s no secret sauce. Where there’s relationships, there’s politics – and where there’s politics, there’s opportunity to show love, mercy, justice and righteousness. So don’t be afraid to acknowledge office politics – don’t be afraid to engage in office politics. After all, fire cannot kill a dragon.