How do you define "politics?"

I use the term “politics” quite a bit when talking about the inner and outer workings of my professional life. At least once every five uses, I get a vaguely glazed look in return; it’s often accompanied by a polite nod and a quick change of subject. Today, I had an epiphany. It’s because I usually use the word outside of the political arena. I’m usually talking about the “political” issues and drama that are a part of human and organizational dynamics. I’m referring to ego clashes, hierarchies, power struggles, etc., not policy-making or elections. But it just seems like such an apt word to describe how offices, governments (city, state and federal) and even friendships sometimes operate. Yet I still get that look.

So I’ve been pondering if I’m using the word incorrectly, and if I need to find another one. Dictionary.com has 6 definitions for “politics”

The most common: the science or art of political government

Ok. That works. That makes sense. But it’s not what I’m talking about.

Aha! How about definition #6: use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.

That’s more like it. But it’s still not quite right. Because in my definition, it’s not always all about obtaining power or control. It might be about fighting powerlessness. It might be about trying to relinquish control. Or it might simply be looking out for one’s own interests.

All of this introspection really proves nothing, other than that I think too much about stuff like this. And that I probably need to find a new word to express the point I’m making. Sigh. But it was such a good one!

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