MT Expert - People: bringing politics to work

With elections being discussed in the office less these days, bosses may be missing a trick in scenario planning...

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

It's dominating the daily headlines, and is all we hear ever about on our news channels. Media owners love nothing better than chewing over the ins and outs and ifs and maybes in pre-election fever. But I am always struck that it's not really a dominant topic of conversation in the workplace. You would hardly know that an election is happening from what people are talking about.

And yet it is providing a backdrop of added uncertainty, which is unsettling just as we are trying to pull people out of that ‘survival mentality' and focus again on looking to the future. As leaders we need to communicate clearly and simply what the priorities are and what we are focused on, and be specific if there are any areas that are ‘on hold' until we know the outcome of the election and the potential impact on our businesses.

But it also prompts the question - is it right to bring politics into the workplace? Does it exert undue influence or pressure given the theoretical wide array of choices that will face us on the polling slips? The other question is whether we should think about having open debates on the implications of the different party policies for our businesses.

It is useful and helpful for people, who may be feeling uncertain about their personal futures, to see that the senior managers are looking ahead (rather than head down) and planning for the different political scenarios. It is all in the spirit of creating a readiness for change that is almost inevitable.

Scenario planning is an excellent exercise to do as a management team too. It poses a collective leadership challenge that focuses you on the future, creates a sense of ‘we're all in this together' and gives you the opportunity to reflect together on what you want the future to be.  It also gives you a shared narrative of what you want to share with your people, your partners and customers

If you then share the outcomes of the scenario planning with your employees, there is no doubt that it would help them to be more politically aware and think more carefully about their own personal viewpoints. It helps us to move from a ‘wait and see' attitude to ‘carpe diem'; in other words, from letting the moment seize you, to you seizing the moment.

I can see a further benefit of a more activist approach in the workplace. It could help tackle the growing indifference to politics, especially among younger people who are even more disillusioned with politicians than the previous generations. Less apathy about politics (the bigger picture about the country) could unlock a greater interest and engagement in the bigger picture for your organisations and build confidence that we have the power to influence the course and direction of our lives.

Virginia Merritt is managing partner at Stanton Marris, a consultancy that specialises in making strategy work through effective leadership, employee engagement and organisation development. By helping organisations make sense of the issues that stop change being sustainable, it enables them to manage the risks associated with strategy development and execution. For more information visit



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