You Can’t Escape Politics

In the workplace, politics are everywhere. Most organizations do not admit it publicly, and many of them won’t even admit it to themselves, but politics is always present.

The Eurovision Song Contest will be presented on May 10th, 12th and 14th of 2016. For those of us outside Europe, you can stream the contest in real time or watch it again after its conclusion via the Eurovision website and their WebTV page.

Because Eurovision features acts from many different countries in Europe (as well as those who are outside of Europe), it’s foolish to think that politics will not play a role in the decisions that are made. Votes are tabulated in no small way by text message from citizens within each country, and the only rule is that you can’t vote for your own country. That never stops Spain and Portugal from regularly voting for each other, or the UK and Ireland having the same arrangement. But sometimes the politics behind the voting can get creepy.

Take this example from 2009’s contest. Azerbijan sent Aysel and Arash with a Euro-pop extravaganza titled Always.

In the same year, Armenia sent Inga & Anush with a Euro-pop entry with a heavy dose of Middle Eastern flair with their song Jan Jan.

Both of these songs went to the final, and either of them could have won. But the controversy raged after the votes were tallied. Armenia and Azerbaijan are locked in a war over a region called Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic conflict which technically ended in a cease-fire in 1994 but still features violence to this day. Not long after the 2009 contest, reports surfaced that Azerbaijan police had tracked down Azerbaijan citizens who had voted for Armenia in the ESC (remember, voting is done via text message) and interrogated them, questioning their patriotism and applying “psychological pressure”.

The 2014 ESC was another hotbed of politics, mainly affecting Russia. The Russian entry, featuring twins singing a song titled Shine, suffered from negative audience reaction during both the semi and the grand final. The reaction wasn’t about the song, which was a strong selection. It was about Russia’s 2014 military invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s strong anti-gay rights stances.

That same year, the 2014 contest winner was Austria’s Conchita Wurst, with her James Bond-esque ballad Rise Like a Pheonix. But Russia, who historically is not exactly the most inclusive of places as far as sexuality and gender identity goes, attacked Wurst as someone who, in the words of President Putin should not have “…put herself up for show.” The Russian Orthodox church also slammed the singer, calling her an “abomination”.

In the workplace, politics are everywhere. Most organizations do not admit it publicly, and many of them won’t even admit it to themselves, but politics is always present. It might be in the form of a Friends and Family group, who seems to hold themselves above the rules. It may be in animosities between departments, who engage in battles for resources and actively try to undercut each other. Learning the politics of the organization you work for is one of the first challenges you face as a new employee.

Some people choose to actively embrace the politics, getting their foot in so that they can quickly advance their careers. Others choose to try and ignore the politics altogether, which can not only sabotage your own advancement but is often futile; eventually you will be dragged into the drama, and when that happens its best to at least be aware of what the politics are so you can respond accordingly. This is a very bad time to try and learn what side the combatants are on when you have just been thrust onto the battlefield.

My advice is not to ignore office politics; you will need that information when you are inevitably dragged into some conflict involved with them. But neither would I recommend actively participating in them, as you will find it the quickest way to make enemies after you publicly take a side. The best protection in this kind of a situation is to buttress your own reputation with your manager and others in the company. If you do get dragged into a conflict, rumors and gossip are often the weapons du jour of the side who perceives that you are against them. But if you have a strong reputation of being professional and open to everyone, the rumors and gossip will have a harder time sticking to you; that is the best defense of all.

To learn more about the ESC and Workplace Culture, click here.
To measure your level of commitment to larger goals as demonstrated by ESC, click here.
To see tips for dealing with flash-based colleagues, click here.
For tips on handling office copycats, click here.

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