In one of my first jobs out of school, at a tender 25 years old, I found myself at a firm with no career ladder and a particularly demoralizing, tyrannical boss. Every morning that I walked from my house to that job, I was wretchedly miserable. My one glimmer of happiness was a smart, funny peer—let’s call her Sarah—who became my instant friend. We were in the same unhappy boat, at a similar level in the organization, and I seized on our lunch breaks as prime opportunities to vent my gloom and misfortune with someone who I knew would understand.
Too often, we work valiantly trying to sell an idea internally with no success. Over-focusing on our tasks or intended outcomes without engaging coworkers’ hearts and minds is often the biggest culprit. Next time you have an initiative to sell internally, consider engaging your network first.
In the decades-long battle to fix gender inequity in the workplace, it seems we’ve been overlooking an obvious part of the problem. Underlying much of the work to create gender parity has been the assumption that women have more value and contributions than they’ve been given opportunities and credit for, and that men, in particular, need educating that this is the case. While workplace studies show women are routinely underestimated compared to men, we don’t give much credence to the fact that women hampering other women is also to blame.
Politics exist in every organization. As you make sense of the office politics around you, you'll need to distinguish when you are compiling information versus engaging in gossip. Gossip, generally speaking, is the trivial workplace talk that spreads sensational or intimate matters around the office. When interviewing women for my book, Denise Incandela, President of Saks Direct at Saks Fifth Avenue, recommended, "Don't get involved in negativity or gossip; to me that just embodies professional immaturity. Of course, a good rule of thumb is to only say things about people that you would say to their face[s]."
No matter what the personality of your organization, take some personal ownership in helping to create improvement. When interviewing executives for my book, Rosslyn Kleeman, Chair of the Coalition for Effective Change encouraged, "Be outgoing, confident, and daring in your thinking. Even if there is no collegial atmosphere in a workplace, do it yourself and create one. It will make politics much easier to navigate." Rosslyn's advice to "do it yourself" is so right. It is up to you to create the kind of changes you want to see more of in your workplace. Strategies to keep in mind as you maneuver through politics include:
If there's an issue, cause, or initiative that you want to rally for at work, consider a "change management" strategy as you implement improvement. Create a coalition of like-minded people, being transparent about your motivations, and you'll be able to accomplish more than you think. Using your influence to harness positive change is one of the best things you can do to leave a positive legacy at your company and be seen as a leader.
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:
When the topic of office politics comes up, I'm accustomed to hearing moans and groans from leadership workshop participants. I want to stay above the politics many of them remark. Others ask with exasperation, Why sully my own reputation by promoting everyday pettiness or agendas?
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