Even when you're out to get something done—not to do someone in—you have to play politics.
—Michael Warshaw, “The Good Guy's (and Gal's) Guide to Office Politics,” Fast Company, April 1998
Organizational politics—a dirty word, a cynical explanation of all that is disagreeable, a descriptive term, or an opportunity? Many people are cynical about politics in organizations, by which they mean a rotten version of politics, the underhanded promotion of personal interests. That is one kind of politics, probably more aptly described as sheer nastiness. It doesn't take organizational life to find self-serving behavior.
Such behavior is self-oriented politics, with the primary goal benefitting only the individual, without concern for the organization or department. The people out for only themselves may use methods seen as duplicitous, such as saying opposite things about their opinions to different people, currying favor with false compliments, harming colleagues by innuendo, or spreading false rumors.
Those distasteful behaviors are certainly unpleasant and do occur. But often, people interpret more innocent behavior as self-seeking or underhanded because the offender's motives or style aren't clear. It is too easy to attribute bad personal motives to the person whose behavior you don't like and not bother to find out ...