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3 Political Campaign Mistakes That Will Destroy Your Office

Posted on March 28, 2012 by Leslie Dickson

The American political landscape has been ugly for as long as I can remember. The Republican primaries are a timely example. As the campaign continues, the candidates make cringe-worthy, preposterous statements, personally attack the president and each other, and proclaim that four years with another candidate will lead to Armageddon. All the while, they fail to seriously address the real issues facing America.

Disagreements in our own offices can have a similar tone. Differences in opinion occur, emotions run high, and once amicable individuals suddenly become mortal enemies. Core issues are disregarded, and sadly, the entire office suffers accordingly.

Don’t let your office feel like a series of attack ads. To keep workplace disagreements under control, avoid these three campaign mistakes.

#1. Forgetting the Bigger Picture

Though viewed by many as the eventual front runner, Mitt Romney continues to fight an elitist image.  Sounds bites such as, “I’m not concerned with the very poor,” “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs,” and “Two of my friends own NFL teams,” don’t help.  Of course, Romney must be aware of this perception, which begs the question: What was he thinking?

Simply put, he probably wasn’t. As these examples illustrate, Romney seems to be trying to appeal to a specific group of voters, the “regular” guys, and in doing so, has lost sight of the bigger picture.

When an office conflict arises, both parties tend to focus on their own short-sighted goals. This is problematic, particularly if these goals are in opposition to each other. Instead, look for a mutually beneficial goal you can both aim for. “How can we work together to solve this problem,” is a much better starting point than, “I’m going to get my proposal accepted, no matter what.”

#2. Making It Personal

In 2010, something amazing happened. Stuart Norman and Andrew Maynard, two candidates for a Senate seat in Connecticut, agreed to campaign without making personal attacks. When asked why they took this approach, the two men stated the election was about the issues and not them as individuals.

Sadly, this idea has been thrown out the window in the current Presidential election. The Republican candidates continue to insult one another, and the Obama administration has already put out attack ads of its own.

Norman and Maynard understood why personal attacks should be avoided: they cloud the issues at hand. If you use a personal attack, you guarantee an angry response from the other party. Now, any valid arguments you have is consumed by their anger and desire to prove you wrong. In his landmark book on negotiation, “Getting to Yes,” Roger Fisher writes, “Be hard on the problem, soft on the people.” Remember, Fisher’s advice. You’ll get much more done if you keep the conversation civil.

#3. Stating Opinions As Fact

Not surprisingly, the current candidates have made very strong, absolutely certain, take-this-as-a-fact statements. Newt Gingrich promises an American moon colony by his second term, Rick Santorum said socialized medicine would kill his child, and Mitt Romney said Obama would allow Iran to become a nuclear power. All of these projections are opinions, but you would never be able to tell based upon their language. They sound so very certain.

Stating an opinion during a disagreement is fine, as long as it’s phrased as an opinion. Many people fail to realize statements like, “Your proposal has a lot of problems,” is only an allegation from someone’s point of view. It may or may not be true.

Make it abundantly clear when you’re stating an opinion. Phrases like “I think,” “I feel,” or “I believe” are possible ways to position a statement from your point of view. Likewise, avoid definitive declarations like, “You are…” and “This will…”.  In the case of the proposal critique, we can change from “Your proposal has a lot of problems,” to, “I find some aspects of your proposal problematic.” This is a much better communication style and not as likely to stir up defensiveness.

“Politics as usual” is filled with spin, name calling, and a lack of factual information or ideas. Hopefully, this doesn’t describe your office conflicts. If it does, learn from the American political scene….by doing the opposite of our current candidates. Keep things in perspective, only discuss the issues, and make it clear when you’re stating an opinion. Your office and business will thank you.

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Image provided by MCS@flickr

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