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Power struggles in the workplace


Every human being wants and needs to feel important so its inevitable when people work all day long especially in close environments something will happen that will spark a power struggle.

Michelle a business owner decided to partner with another company headed by two older men to help her win a new account which both companies can benefit from. Although she invited the men into the process and they understood her company would be the lead company, the men were obviously uncomfortable because she was young, a female and had much less experience. The men were especially uncomfortable because the account they were seeking was an account they had been trying to get on their own for over 5 years but were unsuccessful.{{more}}

After weeks of negotiation, the project seemed to stall and the men thought this was the perfect opportunity to take over the leadership reigns. The gentlemen politely told Michelle they felt the client had lost confidence in her abilities and suggested that they take over as they would be more credible as the lead but she was welcomed to stay on and would be compensated. Michelle refused citing the slow down was not a reflection of her abilities but a sign that the client needed more time to decide. She insisted on remaining as the lead in the project and later went on to close the deal.

Tips to deal with power struggles:

1. Do your analysis. Before you engage in any power plays, evaluate the different ways to resolve the issue and choose the best one. Consider how each choice will affect the outcome of the situation and your career?

2. Seek advice. In the above-mentioned scenario, Michelle sought counsel from her experienced male business mentor on how to handle the men’s attempt to overthrow her from her leadership position. She was thoughtful, strategic and went in prepared to stand her ground.

3. Don’t take it personally. Business is a game and just like in any game everyone wants to be a winner. Unfortunately, some want to be winners by any means necessary even if it means cheating, back biting and engaging in unethical behavior.

4. Be professional and stay calm. Power struggles are a test of your problem solving and leadership skills. If you lose your composure you’ve already lost the game. Michelle simply stated her refusal to relinquish control and held the gentlemen accountable to complete the task and pushed on. She was very attentive to their actions and conversations but did not waste time crying, whining, pouting or cursing.

5. Ramp up your self- confidence. Power struggles can pull at the fabric of your character if you allow them to and negative self- talk can make the most capable, qualified person believe that they are not able to survive the fight.

6. Choose your battles wisely. Sometimes the struggle is so petty it’s not worth the effort. Take the high road especially when the problem is based around childish gossip or fighting over insignificant things like a parking space, or who gets the latest gadgets in the office.

7. Know your company protocol. Sometimes the problem is an easy fix and can be as simple as being aware of what the company protocol is around certain issues.