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What do political debates teach us about company culture?

debate - political

The more I listen to politicians talk with each other, the more I am puzzled as to how and why this type of discourse has become the norm, accepted and even encouraged.  It’s not just during election campaigns. Listen to any Prime Minister’s Question Time, BBC TV’s Question Time, or general political debate, and we’ll consistently hear language that is accusatory, blameful, character denigrating and…actually ‘nasty’.

Yes we all have different opinions and the different parties are there to represent those for us – but does it really have to be so confrontational?  I was recently interested to hear Katie Perrior, a former aide to Mrs May, mention that what is needed in the Brexit negotiations is ‘diplomats’ and not ‘streetfighters’.  She was actually referring to the PM’s Chief of Staff, but the term ‘streetfighter’ does depict a certain image of how opposing politicians tend to engage with each other.

And all for what…to bring voters on side? For it doesn’t necessarily lead to better policies, not in the way that discussing the benefits and outcomes of different ideas calmly and level-headedly would. So, whatever happened to integrity and respect?  And how about the cost in time of these feuding debates?

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear a party representative say of another political party ‘I really admire their policies and see that they are aiming to [improve education, support the NHS, help the economy flourish, etc.], and we believe that our policies are effective because …’?

Wouldn’t you be more willing to listen to that person than to one who condemns the other, passes judgement on their motives or puts down their character?

When our children bicker and fight we tell them not to be so childish. When a teenager (or adult even) reacts and retaliates, we tell them to ‘grow up’.  But somehow in the political arena it seems to be accepted practice.

Thankfully this doesn’t tend to happen in [the majority of] organisations. Imagine a department meeting where, instead of collaborating on ideas and solutions, teams sit on different sides of the room, engaging in a stand-up argument, disputing each other’s plans and suggestions…

‘The cost of workplace conflict runs to an estimated £33 billion each year’

The Confederation of British Industry

So what in business can we learn from the political scene? 

As a priority, amongst driving profits, cutting costs and streamlining, companies should work towards a more harmonious culture in the workplace, meeting the needs of the business, whilst also taking care of the needs of employees.  A culture with one goal and a powerful vision statement that heralds the purpose every employee is proud to work toward, and serving as a compass bearing to know where they are going, and what their part is in the big picture, to engage in collaborating rather than quarrelling.Blog 13

“Implementing strategy needs all staff to be clear about the business, what they need to do,
and how this will benefit the business.”

Nigel Piercy, Professor of Strategic Marketing, Cranfield University

And at the same time, it’s about engendering a culture of Professional Communication. One that promotes and encourages every individual to take responsibility for their words (as well as their actions). So that they are able to avoid the sort of condemnation and disparagements that proliferate the political world and instead approach daily conflicts and disagreements in an emotionally intelligent way, amicably and respectfully.

For more information on setting a company vision, culture change through communication or Professional Communication skills, contact




Penelope Newton-Hurley is a Communication Troubleshooter,Consultant, Trainer and Mediator
The Communication Troubleshooter helps drive engagement and performance through Emotional Intelligence and CommPassion© Communication techniques.

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