Through the years, several managers have told me that they choose their enemies with care. The question is whether it would be better to switch focus and instead choose your friends with care. If you start focusing on the positive, your enemies lose their power.
When facing silo mentalities among departments and colleagues, the need for analyses of stakeholders arises. They allow you to make a countermove against your opponent and thus better your chances of survival in an agenda you don’t feel entirely confident about. These types of scenarios are daily occurrences in many organisations.
Perhaps we can’t completely avoid seeing enemies when various types of people gather under the same roof, but we can choose what to focus on and thereby what we help create.
The question is whether it is actually necessary to choose your enemies carefully in order to succeed? Wouldn’t that just give them the power you’re trying to deprive them of?
A wise man, who I hold in high esteem, once said that he has stopped trying to understand the reason behind the irrational actions of other people. Rather, he chooses to focus on what he is trying to achieve from the relation, collaboration or negotiation in question. Not needing to understand irrational behaviour does not mean caring less about ethics or becoming less empathetic. It’s about stopping the quest for the understanding you need in order to be able to accept since you end up not understanding and being disappointed anyway.
If your colleagues have appointed you the enemy, all objectivity will be replaced by subjective interpretations of the things you say and do, and you will be met with a negative bias and a negative energy.
Should you consider these colleagues your enemies simply because you’re considered theirs and thus give them the power to continue their black and white perception of your relationship? Or should you instead keep your eyes on the goal and focus on how to make it possible to work together, enabling you to achieve results and stay focused when interacting with the subjective enemy relationships into which you are both unconsciously and deliberately invited?
Everyone has a choice. We are free to choose how to act. Regardless of past traumas, hurtful comments, burned bridges and invitations to workplace warfare, we have a choice. At any given moment we can choose to be decent, remain objective and not participate in the fight.
At no point in our lives do we have an excuse to be asses. Our hurt feelings or traumas can explain our behaviour but they can never justify it, and our emotional baggage must never turn us into victims or executioners who hurt other people or stand in the way of their success.
Viewing others as enemies can build an organisation that is so toxic that people come into work every day already on the defensive. The moment you realise that such a culture is in the making, immediate action is required. There’s no time to look for explanations. It’s necessary to let the entire organisation know how to actively get away from this destructive behaviour.
The year draws to a close, and my wish for 2018 is that this will be the year when we focus on the areas where the grass is growing and that we encourage more growth. A year where you don’t look for explanations and excuses for a dysfunctional and toxic behaviour but act in a timely manner so that the dysfunction doesn’t have time to take roots in the organisation but is rather detoxified, allowing the soil to be fertilized anew.
Let us choose to focus on positive relations and collaboration, and let us be conscious of the difference between positive and negative elements in our daily cooperative efforts. My message is therefore: Choose your friends rather than your enemies. Focus on where the flowers bloom and the grass grows and avoid the weeds. This way they’ll wither away on their own and make room for healthy relationships and a nourishing work environment.
Founder of the Global Voices project. Belongingness officer and an experienced People Executive.