In my last post, we looked at how you can become aware of the politics that exist at your workplace. I offered up questions ”much like an external consultant would ask” to help you quickly understand your surroundings. This week, I want to move past awareness to help you build more social and relational capital. Below you'll find a mix of strategies employable in just about any industry or function:
Employ Internal Customer Service:
Taking an internal customer service approach is one of the best ways to build your personal brand and to fortify yourself to better handle politics in the future. This means serving those in your organization just as you would your best customer, without regard to title, rank, or hierarchy. In gaining a reputation for delivering strong results with a great attitude, it'll be hard for people not to get word of it. You'll gain friends and allies at work, translating to more people who will support you and your projects. Remember, many of those whom you serve will have more power or influence than you do. By showing them that you are smart, considerate, and approachable, you'll make them want to advocate for your success in the future.
Distinguish Good vs. Bad Gossip:
As you make sense of the workplace politics around you, you'll need to distinguish when you're gathering critical information versus gossiping. Gossip, generally speaking, is the trivial workplace talk that spreads sensational or intimate matters around the office. In interviewing Denise Incandela, President at Saks Fifth Avenue for my book, she recommended, Don't get involved in negativity or gossip to me that just embodies professional immaturity. Discretion at work matters because leaders have to keep all kinds of data and information confidential throughout the course of their jobs. What's more, gossiping is an easy way to cut other women down and lose respect from men. On the other hand, as you move up, you'll likely need to seek out information to stay informed. You might ask a trusted peer or subordinate, What's your sense about how people are feeling given the news of the merger? or How do you think it's going for people as they get used to the new sales software? Expressing genuine interest is reflective of an inclusive approach--where you involve and value a cross section of people's perceptions and experiences.
Find Culture Guides:
In adapting to a new workplace, there's no reason to start from scratch, going it alone. Strategically meet and become known by a broad spectrum of people who are more seasoned, more tenured or more experienced than you. Be sure that you take the research of McKinsey into account, which tells us that men more often build broad, shallow networks whereas women have narrower, deep networks, mainly composed of friends. Broader networks are considered more essential for career advancement and provide a wider range of services to call upon. Create a personal board of directors, composed of those in and out of the organization, that can help you with different specialties. As Vicki Ho, Director of Strategic Planning for Coca-Cola's Pacific group urged, Create a network where you become known by people other than your boss. This group can eventually vouch for you.
Bring it Back to the Business:
Many of us can get caught in the middle of ego-fueled battles and personal agendas. Whose side will you take? The correct answer is neither! Be the one to ask good questions, bringing it back the business or the overarching objective at hand. You might propose:
Theres no shortage of good strategies for navigating politics. The biggest risk we take however is closing our eyes and pretending we dont need to be aware of the political undercurrents at work.
Offer up your own best practices here and let me know how these serve you!
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