Frustrated with office politics?...
By Peter Urs Bender

Your boss is walking toward your office door. You can see by the smoke coming out of his ears that he's a little ticked off. He comes in, slam dunks you with his problem and leaves. What do you do? These are four of the most common ways of dealing with interpersonal difficulties; blow up, pass it on, stuff it or get even. The situation with your boss is just an example. Maybe it's finding out that a major client has bounced a cheque. An uncooperative member has been spreading a feeling of malaise among peers. An employee whose "I-don't-care attitude" is turning off customers. Or maybe it's the backbiting of office or board politics.


Whatever the source, the frustration triggered grows like an "office cancer." It eats away at your office spirit -- and often, in turn, at your organization. Decays work relationships. Saps motivation. Reduces work satisfaction. And wreaks havoc in your body, through stress, ulcers and uglier stuff.

Each of the four choices described above is a temporary coping mechanism; but none is an effective, long-term solution. So let's look at another option for coping with such situations. I call it "leadership from within."


We all possess the seeds of greatness. In this respect, we are no different from business leaders like the Bill Gates of the world. We all have ideas or dreams of things we want to see happen. Creating a more successful business and a good working environment. Being more fulfilled in our work. Having better personal relationships. Seeing the world improve. --Unfortunately, only a few actually accomplish their dreams. Most of us are waiting for someone else to lead or give us the power to turn out vision into reality. And that is a mistake.

Becoming a leader is a skill. You can learn how to do it. The resources you need are already within you. It is the degree to which you develop your "seeds of greatness" that determines your success.

However, the biggest thing which blocks us is fear. That, I believe, is the number one problem of our times. We are afraid to stand out. To speak our minds and hearts. To risk being criticized or looking foolish. It is this fear that stops us from being the leaders we seek and the ones we can truly be.


1. Know yourself.

Listen to your heart. This is where your personal power, creativity and ability to make a difference begins. Each action you take starts a ripple through your organization. If you "slam dunk" someone, they'll probably treat others the same way. If you treat people with respect and value, they'll value themselves more and others too. It's simply the old golden rule.

According to management consultants Tony Alessandra and Michael O'Conner, there's also something called "The Platinum Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. For example, if you telephone someone (a co-worker, supplier, client) who works or speaks at a slow pace, don't come at them like you're running the 100 metre final in the Olympics. Slow down. Or, vice-versa; speed up for someone who's going faster than you are. Neither one is right or wrong. It's simply a way to improve communication, show respect and build rapport.

Also, find what's important to you. With the rapid pace of change, many of us are losing our sense of self. We are so focused on computers and technology that we are losing touch with people. We are slashing budgets and downsizing staff, but forgetting what if feels like to be on the receiving end. We have more and more information, but less and less meaning in our lives.

Leadership is much more than directing others. It starts with leading ourselves. From seeing problems to seeing possibilities. From "not having enough" to being prosperous. From looking to others for answers, to finding our own. The most effective leaders are those who lead by example.

2. Have a vision.

We all have it. It's the ability to see things as they could be instead of as they are now. Every product, every business, every scientific discovery that exists today was at some time in history "impossible." It took someone with a different perspective to see, believe and create it.

One way to identify your vision is to look at what ideas keep popping up in your mind, or what your heart is "calling" on you to do. Inventing better technologies. Proving the highest quality service. Establishing an exemplary office environment. -- Yet having a vision is not enough. It has to be made physically "real" by using the resources available. to us.

So how do you want your office to be? More productive, energetic and alive? People taking initiative and working enthusiastically with others? So enjoyable that you look forward to coming back tomorrow? If that seems pie in the sky, it's because we've accepted office mediocrity or frustration as a way of life. But it's not; it's a slow way of death.

Do something about it. Ask yourself how you would like the atmosphere and productivity in your office to be. Choose a different vision. Then share it with people. they’ll think you're crazy - not because they don't want it, but because it seems impossible at first. But stick to it. Act on it. And others will be wanting it too.

3. Have a passion.

People love to work around someone who expresses a positive vision with passion. It's contagious. Passion - or loving what you do - refuels people. It revitalizes. You can work late, yet come out with more energy than you had at the start of the day.

The reason? Passion comes from an energy inside of you. A deeper source of power. it comes, not from trying to be right or better than someone else, but from finding what moves you. What matters. What you care about and want to do for yourself and for others.

4. Take risks.

Ohhhh... that can be tough sometimes. It can be threatening to move out of our normal way of working and relating, and try something new. To be bold. Vulnerable. Or to chance being called crazy. But that's why it's a number four on this list. If you follow these steps in order, the motivation to take risks is already inside of you. Take a deep breathe, relax and go for it - or let it move you!

One of the most important elements of risk is taking action. The problem is, most of us were taught: "first you learn; then you perfect; and then you act." But in waiting for that perfection -- when we have all the answers and know exactly what to do -- opportunities for progress are passing us by.

We get a good idea, but don't value it enough to act on it. Or we say we're going to do something but don't keep our commitment. Sometimes inaction results from not facing problems. Or maybe we're afraid to rock the boat or be judged by others.

The cost of inaction is far higher than we recognize. Throughout society, our problems are growing. People are frustrated. "Something must be done." Those in leadership positions aren't providing the answers. So who will? Remember: "If it has to be, it's up to me."

5. Communicate.

One of the biggest risks you will ever take is sharing your vision and passion with others. However, communication also flows naturally from the previous steps. You know what you feel. You have a vision and some passion for how you'd like the office to be. Now communicate it. Risk speaking from the heard instead of saying what's safe. When talk turns to office politics, say "You know, I feel frustrated. I'd like to talk about how to get this office working better." Then share your feelings, your vision and your passion. Honesty and sincerely will open up new opportunities that you never thought were possible.

Then ask others for their feedback and ideas. These can be vital to making your project a success. Leadership from within is not about succeeding by ourselves. It’s about succeeding by being ourselves and by receiving the help of others along the way.

To sum up "leadership from within" in once sentence: Be the person you want to be, and live the change you want to see.

So if your boss is just about to dump his anger all over you, sit back for a minute. Breathe. Accept yourself. Listen. See that he or she is having a rough time. Think about how you'd like this situation to turn out. Then risk caring... and say: "You must feel awful. It sounds like you've been through hell. How can I help?"

Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada’s most dynamic and entertaining business speakers. He lives and works out of Toronto. He is the author of four best-selling business books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, Secrets of Power Marketing, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, and Gutfeeling.
To read excerpts from his books visit