Lipstick and Politics

A friend and I got to talking about office politics the other day. He mentioned he, like most of us, hates it. Playing that game is of no interest to him. As someone who did not get the hang of this concept until much later in my career, I completely get what he’s saying.

Go back a year ago, when at the peak of burnout hell, I walked into a MAC Cosmetics store, pointed at my face and said “THIS…needs help”. As one of the staff started assessing the situation (and believe me, it was a situation), she asked why I hadn’t considered using makeup before. My response flew out of my mouth like I had rehearsed it a million times. “I look young. I take care of my skin. I always figured I could just get away with not wearing any make up”, to which she replied “just because you can get away with it, doesn’t mean you should”.

Here’s why that shocked me and immediately gave me an “aha!” moment. For years I believed, it is what’s on the inside that counts. Inner beauty. Your makeup will wash off, your face will change, but your inner beauty will always shine bright. These are statements I, like many women, still believe. But the catch is, to get someone to see your inner beauty, you often need a hook. You “dress to impress”, you wear a cologne that you think will do the trick, you get a car wash, you shave, you shove your feet into 6 inch heels that are guaranteed to destroy your feet later in life. Dating politics, or, life!

It is perfectly fine to not want to participate in office politics. It is also absolutely OK to just wash your face, put on some moisturizer and walk out the door. But you must adjust your expectations based on your behaviour. You will not score a slam dunk if you’re satisfied with being a bench warmer, plain and simple. I would love to tell you that you will go far in the corporate World without playing that game, (or you will meet the man of your dreams one day standing in your dirty sweats without a hint of make up on your face), but the sad reality is, you need to step into the court. You need to dribble the ball a little before passing it on. To get into the spotlight, you have to get in the game.

The good news is, you can still do that with integrity and staying true to your values. In fact, I insist that you remind yourself of those daily. Then and only then will you be able to flawlessly balance the art of dancing around the politics, and the wonderful thing which is the true, authentic you.