By now, you’ve likely already heard that the Basecamp founders attempted to sink their company with, among other things, an edict that sought to prohibit all “political discussions” from the workplace.  The Basecamp post is notable for the way it aspires to an Onion-worthy caricature of bad management, but the general message here—that the workplace ought to be a politically neutral space—is very common. It is also a cover up.
I’ve noted before how phrases and concepts often “do work” beyond just what their presumed meaning might relay. The term “office politics” is one of those phrases. It turns an important part of the inner workings of an organization—how people negotiate power and authority—into a futile and dispiriting game that no one in their right mind wants any part of. It serves to disenfranchise people from participating in decision-making that affects their lives. It reduces politics to power-grabbing without any analysis of the consequences of who wields that power, and in doing so coats any discussion of political values in a film of disgrace.