Do you dream of having an apolitical workplace? A workplace where everyone one is not interested or involved in political acrobatics? Is this wishful thinking, after all, workplaces are run and dominated by humans? Humans are by their nature political animals. They accentuate their differences – it’s a human thing.
Come to think of it – an organisation is a political machine akin to a nation-state. Individuals with particular ‘political’ affiliations align themselves to specific work-place constituencies. Work-place constituents, tend to jostle for attention to acquire political mighty.
It’s a dog eat dog affair, driven by the urge to win and dominate the other side. People will do anything, anyhow, even if it harms other people.
Dogs eating dogs at work is similar to the politics of nations. Classic organisations should not play the same game at work, like our politician friends. Politics is a zero-sum game – one side’s loss is the other side’s gain. It’s like the procurement bid analysis and award process – the contract to govern is usually given to one side. The party best placed to address the needs and aspirations of the citizens wins the contract to rule.
To keep politics away from the workplace is a tall order. The human element, usually more selfish than not, influences how human beings behave at work. Yes, it should be the organisation’s Vision and Mission that drive all that we do at work. But humans, have firm beliefs about the best approaches to achieving the so-called Mission. Nothing wrong with that – and that is why people go to school. To learn independent and diverse thinking.
Sadly, the human tendency to push for the acceptance and dominance of one’s beliefs influences their actions in a manner that undermines and renders subservient, those in the opposite workplace constituency.
How do we get players in the modern workspace to accept that we don’t need to win and dominate to make a point? That we don’t have to practice in ways akin to nation-state politics to be successful at work. After all, the latter creates silo’d success that at the end of it all undermines the whole.
Success should be holistic. The journey to complete achievement is made more straightforward when we avoid the temptation to bring nation-state politics into the organisation.
How to avoid zero-sum behaviour in the workplace?
On this Easter Day, for those that celebrate Easter and its well-wishers, we take lessons on living with our differences, from the three main Abrahamic faiths – Islam, Christianity and Judaism
The three main Abrahamic religions together constitute 54% of the world’s religions. The Christians that are celebrating Easter today claim 33% of the world’s population, Islam 21% and Judaism has 0.2%
But in there is the catch and the lesson for those that want to play zero-sum games at work. The three Abrahamic faiths, much as they have a common origin in Abraham, don’t agree on some issues and they don’t have to do so. Even then, they aren’t at war over their differences. They aren’t working to convert the other to the other’s faith
Imagine for a moment what would happen if all 54% of the world’s believers were playing zero-sum games? There would be hell on earth!
The three religions agree on a number of issues: they worship the God Abraham – they are very monotheistic and believe that God is creator of the universe – they all believe that God sent emissaries (prophets) to teach us Judaism, Islam, and Christianity – and all three faiths consider Jerusalem a crucial holy site albeit for different reasons
But most important for this specific blog, they also have fundamental disagreements: they have differences in belief and practices around the personality of Jesus – to the Christians, Jesus is Divine; while to the Jews and Muslims, Jesus was a mere prophet; and indeed to the Muslims, Muhammad was the last and greatest Prophet of Allah.
The differences become even more visible in regards to today’s subject – Easter:
- Apparently, in Islam, there is nothing like Easter. Muslims are instructed by the Holy Quran that Jesus Christ, the messenger of Allah, was “neither killed nor crucified”; rather Allah ascended him unto Himself, “alive,” and saved him from nakedness and shameful death on the cross.
- On the other hand, Christians have a fundamental belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scripture, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scripture…If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith is in vain…If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins.” (Holy Bible, RSV 1 Cor. 15:4–17)
- For the Jews, Jesus is considered a false prophet
Yet, even with all the above differences, the Abrahamic faiths mostly live in peace with one another. Many, mainly of the Muslim faith, have wished us a very Happy Easter
The lesson is simple: build on the strengths and commonalities, respect the differences plus learn from them, and most of all, remember that it’s not about the other side losing and you winning but the Mission of the organisation. And again, it’s not a zero-sum game
Can you imagine how much more value-creation firms would enjoy if all those that labour for them become more accepting and respectful of other’s beliefs – and instead of working to dominate others, work to co-exist and achieve a common goal?
When there is harmonious co-existence at work, those that trade their skills for money, are happier and more effective at what they do. There is consensual, extraordinarily productive and signature-service to the firm.
Perhaps, you may just want to borrow a thing or two, from the three humble dogs above
A thrilling Easter to you all!