"Club Politics" - Managing Workplace Politics

January 2, 2012

Not only is club politics something we have to be aware of, but even workplace politics is something we have to juggle as well. Over the past year, I read a number of articles about workplace politics and in this final installment of the "Club Politics" series, I have tried my best to convey what I learned and a little bit about what I have learned in my own humble experiences. Something tells me that many golf professionals in general can relate to the subject of workplace politics in their own unique way.

A golf operation begins and ends with the Head Professional, but many operations are cultivated in a way where going to work in the morning can sometimes feel like walking on to the set of an episode of "All My Children". I once had a job that was very similar to this. Between all of the intrigues and rivalries, it can be a nightmare to navigate through it all and actually help run a golf operation. Working at a club like this isn’t pretty. Hopefully this article will grow your perspective and help you make the golf shop environment a much more pleasant place to work in.

Avoid Gossip from Members and Employees and Always Remain Objective

Participation in gossip is usually the fastest entry point into workplace politics. Usually the person who is letting you in on the latest news is consciously or subconsciously trying to align you with their point of view, or negatively dispose you towards others. Gossip is very often a double-edged sword: Whoever gossips to you will someday gossip about you if they haven’t already. Gossip can also unfairly poison your views of your colleagues and influence your judgment if you have to make decisions that affect them.

Not participating in gossip sounds easy. Chances are many of us realize the destructiveness of gossip and yet still indulge in it at the same time. Making the decision to avoid gossip often requires overcoming your fear about standing out from the crowd. However, it might be possible to take that stand tactfully. Do your best to stay objective. Involve your opinion as little as possible in non-business matters and be fact-centered.

Long-Term Harmony above Short-Term Gain

If you happen to disagree with a colleague over the best approach to an issue, try and take your own ego out of it and stand in their shoes for a moment. Golf shop politics tends to focus on the person rather than the idea, so try and detach the two. In many cases, there may be little or no difference in the effectiveness of the two rival approaches, and it may be best to just go along with the other idea to keep harmony. A 90% perfect solution done in unison can often be better then the 100% perfect solution which was only achieved at the cost of conflict.

Respect Others’ Territory

Sometimes people regard their golf operations competencies as their ‘territory’ and will guard them against all-comers. Early on in my career, I worked with an experienced assistant professional who wouldn’t train the other assistants in how to use the merchandising and inventory software because he admittedly thought that being the only one who knew how to operate it was his job security. Employees like this might feel they have absolute expertise in the area, and are seriously put out if someone is interested in learning about that expertise. Often the best approach in this case is just to let them have it, but make it clear that if they ever would like help, you're willing to learn and are not very far away. There are plenty of other opportunities in a golf operation to take on and learn.

Seek to Understand, Before Being Understood

It is said that that the reason people feel unjustified is because they felt misunderstood. Instinctively, we are more interested in getting people to understand us, than to understand them first. Surprisingly, seeking to understand is a very disarming technique. Once the other party feels that you understand where he/she is coming from, they will feel less defensive and be open to understand you in return. This sets the stage for open communications to arrive at a solution that both parties can accept. Trying to arrive at a solution without first having this understanding is very difficult - there is little trust and too much second-guessing, an environment ripe for negative workplace politics.

Keep the Faith

Of course, one of the main causes of golf shop politics is because we are hoping to advance within the operation and onward, leading to the temptation to keep an eye on potential rival golf professionals for promotion. Let’s face it, the golf business is extremely competitive and pays little. The golf professionals you work with now can one day be your competition for an HP job later. What we don’t realize is that all this worrying about others is essentially a lack of faith in ourselves, and that all the problems mentioned in the first three points – gossiping, territory, etc. – are just ’shortcuts’ we take because we are afraid we won’t go places on our own merit alone. But conversely, not indulging in these behaviors demonstrates strength, courage, tact and a feeling for managing people – qualities which many clubs would pay well for! Don't be afraid about standing out from the crowd for the right reasons. Be confident in yourself and do your job and see where it will take you!