From Congress to Your Cubicle: Five Important Lessons From Today’s Political Climate

Ah, from the ashes of political idiocy comes the hope of new learning...

By , Columnist

Let’s face it - the majority of our most prominent political representatives probably wouldn’t know “smart” if it bit them in the ass. They go around vomiting divisiveness and stupidity, shrinking from important challenges, and violating some of the basic rules of good business. Yikes, right?

But there is some good news. Through their nauseatingly-plentiful catalog of mistakes, the rest of us can learn some essential business lessons that are applicable from the Oval Office right on down to your cube.

- Do more than skim your contract. Taking five minutes to get acquainted with the barest bones of and rights that go along with your job can be extremely valuable.

After all, contracts aren’t just gibberish - you can discover everything from the fact that you probably don’t have a whole lot of laws on your side when you’re terminated (as I did when I was unceremoniously let go), to your company’s previously-unmentioned zero tolerance policy on some important issue, to the hint that your position requires you to maintain a separation of two semi-important entities like “church” and “state.” Kidding… mostly.

- Your opposition and allies are equally important. Not paying attention to the rules of basic marketing, what some of the more… oh, let’s call it “staunch” members of the Tea Party don’t seem to realize is that you need to sweet talk your opposition more than you do your allies.

As a marketer, you work to maintain relationships with the people you’ve already won over, but you work equally hard - if not harder - to help others fall in love with the product you’re offering. In this case, though, they’re working harder at maintaining a close-knit following than they are at branching out and wooing the audiences that can help them win.

- Having a backbone makes your suit look even better. I voted for Obama because I thought the man had incredible potential to make much-needed changes to this country. Unfortunately, he’s just tried to become a universal friend instead of an unequivocal leader, and that’s made him a big, fat pushover. In politics and business alike, you need to learn what the most important issues are and when to stand your ground on them.

Letting yourself be pushed around just poisons whatever fantastic potential you ever had to lead and leaves people questioning you. Don’t be rigid for the sake of rigidity, but know that, when negotiations have failed and the bully is still at your throat, sometimes you need to move forward despite their blows or throw a good punch, yourself (figuratively, of course).

- Avoid well-known pop culture or historical references if you’re not positive of their details or significance. Do I really need to explain this one? Think inaccurate Galileo references/Elvis birthday mix-ups/Paul Revere historical gaffes… basically, inaccuracy on well-known facts and issues makes you look like an idiot. If you’re not a history buff, avoid, avoid, avoid.

- It’s called “political” correctness for a reason. Because politicians don’t seem to get it? No… because it’s most important in an arena where you’re trying to net the greatest number of supporters possible - i.e. politics. Always tailor your topic choice and vocab to your audience.

After all, you don’t want to make one offensive or inflammatory reference (Hurricane Irene is a message from God!) that leaves your client stewing all through - and therefore ignoring - the brilliant presentation you spent the last 72 hours polishing up. While you want to be spectacular, what you really want to be is a spectacular mouthpiece for the idea/product at hand, and being a controversial jackass is just complete (and, yes, spectacular) sabotage.

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Emmie Scott is an English major-turned-marketing exec, with a passion for writing, humor, sharing knowledge, and "pink drinks." After hours, she started Are Toe Rings Professional Attire?, a blog for college grads and twenty-somethings looking to find their way through that daunting labyrinth called…

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