When it comes to the workplace, I’m a very apolitical person.
I’m not talking conservative vs. liberal; I’m referring to to the interpersonal shuffling for exalted status that exists in pretty much any corporation. You may know these folks as glory hounds: those who are primarily (and often obsessively) concerned with their standing, status, and visibility among their supervisors and their peers. Glory hounds play this intricate, interlaced game of politics to push through their own agendas and build their legacies. Sometimes it’s intensely obvious; most times, it’s subtle, like a faint vibration in the floor.
So long as the games of the glory hounds don’t intersect my world, I can live with it. However, once my time, my projects, and my (and my team’s) reputation come under (direct or indirect) assault by a glory hound’s agenda, I start to seethe.
I don’t like these games. They frustrate me.
I’ve been giving a lot of thought on how to deal with the glory hounds. They’re certainly not going away, and outward opposition to their plans and schemes isn’t always going to win me (or my team) any favors. And yet, I have sparse appetite for wading into their pool and playing along in corporate “Keeping Up With the Joneses.”
Over the past year, I’ve been working my way steadily through the Old Testament to become more versed in God’s word. I’m currently in Job. If you’re not familiar with this book of the Bible, Job is a “righteous and blameless man” whose family, livelihood, and ultimately, his health, are taken from him to showcase his steadfast obedience to God. Throughout the book, several of his closest friends come to counsel him, assuming that some sinful act of his has let to his current state (and obviously not being terribly helpful). Job replies back to each, increasingly frustrated, fearful, and confused with God, but never once vilifying or defying Him. Job finally gets to plead his case to God directly, but that’s not where I’m going here.
About a third of the way through the book (Job 16:3-5), Job scolds his friends, illustrating how he would take the high road with them, despite their accusations and comments:
Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?
I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you.
But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief.
This last verse is what got me.
In reading this passage, I saw that the glory hounds can have their “long-winded” and “fine” speeches; they can push their agenda past, over, and through my working life. I, however, can make the choice to do better, through kindness, empathy, and encouragement. I don’t have to play along, or even to “play nice.” I can choose to be uplifting and even-keeled (“authentically nice”) in my actions and my reactions.
There’s another verse from Ephesians 4:29 that supports this practice:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
It’s tempting to push back against the glory hounds, to slander them, to gossip about them, and to frustrate their plans out of spite. But I believe I’ve found a method of coexisting with them in a manner that will truly uplift those around me in the workplace while stripping away emotions and thoughts that are simply mental clutter.
To quote the famous line from Wargames, “the only winning move is not to play.” I won’t play the games of the glory hounds, but instead I can walk the high road with humility, and truly live it.