“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. . . Take control and choose to focus on what is important.”
~ Anais Nin ~
Mary Ann is caught in a downward spiral. She manages a department for a mid-sized manufacturing company and the atmosphere at work has gotten so negative lately that she hates going to work—at a job she used to love. She knows it’s time to confront the office politics. However, as an introvert she would rather avoid any conflict or confrontation necessary to resolve these issues.
Office politics leads to negative behavior. Left unchecked, this can have dangerous consequences. According to Gordon Davidson, writing in the Kamloops Daily News, “Workplace politics is a broad term for many events at work such as passive-aggressive sabotage, gossip, turf wars, scapegoating, power struggles, sibling rivalries, office romances, favoritism, dysfunctional decision making: all kinds of things that cause stress, burnout and eventually depression,” says Davidson. “It’s one of the leading causes for disability claims, absenteeism and family distress.”
Exactly what Mary Ann has been experiencing. She could just shrug it off or blame it on a bad economy or bad weather. Instead she decides it’s up to her to turn things around. She embarks on a mission to figure out what’s happening and why. This is a difficult step for her and most introverts handling office politics. If you’re experiencing a similar syndrome, you may want to follow these three simple steps:
• Isolate trouble spots
• Take it public
• Accentuate the positive
1. Isolate trouble spots. Mary Ann began to observe her environment more closely so she could see where the negative sentiments were coming from. If you’re in a similar situation, ask yourself: Is top management modeling this negative vibe? Are people only focusing on what hasn’t been done, instead of appreciating what has? Is the negative sentiment coming from a single source or multiple sources? Mary Ann determined that hers was a departmental issue, based on demands of a fast-growing business, plus the volume and pace of work.
2. Take it public. Mary Ann’s next move was to bring the problem out in the open. She first discussed what she was experiencing with her boss. If trouble is brewing, management needs to be aware and know that you’re working on the problem. Next, call an all-hands meeting. Share your observations and ask people to express their feelings. Whatever is bringing people down, whether it’s a disagreement between two team members or a mini-rebellion against work overload, a frank discussion of the situation is the first step toward resolving it.
3. Accentuate the positive. To quote Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Your team may not experience an overnight attitude adjustment, but you can. Every person you meet with, from one-on-ones to team meetings, find out what’s going well. Focus on that. Every time you share about the company or your situation with others, focus on the positive first. Notice what the team and individuals are doing well and talk it up. Most importantly, take five minutes a day and write down all the things that you personally are doing well, all the areas that feel positive to you. When you begin to feel positive, you’ll act positive and the feeling will spread.
Mary Ann’s department didn’t change overnight and yours won’t either. The negative attitudes brought on by office politics can spread faster than the common cold. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you, and everyone else, will begin to feel better.
If office politics is creating a bad environment in your workplace, Joel has some suggestions for you. Contact him and start solving your problem today.
Talkback: What’s your office politics story? Share your problems and solutions here. If your an introvert how have you dealt with difficult office politics at work?
Image courtesy of Google / Google.com
“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
~ Michael Jordan ~
Robin Greene was smart and successful; she was often the go-to person on her team if someone needed advice and she was always open to giving it. So when an internal promotion opened up and Robin looked around her, it seemed that she was the only one really deserving of it. However, three days later, she overheard loud and chatty Bill boasting about how he’d just been promoted.
Frustrated, Robin questioned her boss, Isaac, about how this could’ve happened. His answer: Robin was really good at what she did but Bill understood how to increase visibility in the organization and build influence, which had ultimately landed him the promotion.
Isaac offered Robin some sound advice to help her increase her own visibility in the organization to give her a better chance at getting the promotion next time:
Don’t make your work look too easy. Isaac suggested that although she didn’t actually say it, Robin’s attitude had often been, “This is simple and anyone could do this.” Simple or not, Robin was sabotaging her own success by undervaluing her skills and strengths. Isaac urged Robin to first value her own skill sets and then market herself on how her unique skills helped her to stand out and be more visible among her peers.
Build influence up, down, and laterally. Robin’s work was commendable, but it wasn’t recognized or visible. Isaac told Robin how important it was to build positive relationships with those above her, those she supervised, cross-departmentally, and externally. “Influence is essential to getting ahead,” emphasized Isaac. Along with increasing visibility, the higher up you want to go in a company the more influence you need to have.
Hire a professional coach. If Robin wanted to advance fast, Isaac suggested she employ the services of an experienced executive coach who could help accelerate her development and save her from learning things the hard way. A career advancement coach would offer hands-on tools and teach her ways to increase visibility at work without self-promoting, build influence correctly, and also help with other key areas like developing executive presence.
Have you just missed a promotion? Have you wondered, “How can I increase my visibility in the organization in order to get ahead?” Do you want to learn the trade secrets of building influence?
For immediate answers and real results that work, invest in a comprehensive executive coaching program today.
Talkback: Are you a woman slipping under the radar while male employees get ahead of you? What steps are you taking in your organization, to increase your visibility? Share your story in the comments below!
“Leadership is no longer about your position. It’s now more about your passion for excellence and making a difference. You can lead without a title.”
~ Robin Sharma ~
A new manager, holding his first ever team meeting in a company that sold medical devices, assumed that an important matter had unanimously been agreed on when one team member called out, “Would this solution have pleased Mr. Hardy?”
Right away, other team members started jotting down notes and brainstorming more ideas.
The new manager later learned that Mr. Hardy had been part of the firm for over 25 years. He had never been a manager, and in fact saw budding youngsters with flashing MBAs get ahead of him. However, whenever a key decision had to be made on a new product or the company came up with a new initiative, he would ask, “Is this the best we can do? How can we create real change in someone’s life?”
Some mocked him, but there were those who listened. That question sparked innovation, leading to enhanced user interface design, better quality assurance, and universally designed products that took the medical device market by storm.
Over the years, it became somewhat customary for employees old and new to question whether their solution or idea was good enough to satisfy Mr. Hardy.
Here are three ways Mr. Hardy practiced leadership at his lower level position and showed others how to become powerful leaders:
- Striving for excellence. Although Mr. Hardy didn’t have the qualifications or skills to make it high up the ranks, what he did have was the ability to bring out the best in others who possessed those skills. He got highly skilled staff to constantly ask themselves if they could do something better.
- Giving a gentle reminder. With so many distractions in the workplace today, it can be easy to drift from the company’s mission. Sometimes it’s important to be reminded of what role you play, and how you too can become a powerful leader—not only in your job, but in the way your work helps humanity at large. This can be motivating enough to keep you excelling at any level.
- Changing the company culture. The motivation that you get from your paycheck and perks can only take you so far. For your career to truly become a calling, you have to believe in what you do. Mr. Hardy helped instill an important ingredient his company was missing—passion. Collective passion was powerful enough to lead Mr. Hardy’s company to greatness.
You don’t need a title to be a powerful leader—all you need is courage. Good leaders can be found at any level of a company. Mr. Hardy’s need to drive corporate change for the good was so genuine that it was contagious.
Talkback: Have you done something extraordinary to stand out as a leader in your company? Have you practiced leadership regardless of your position? We’d love to hear your story.
Alan was a department manager several years ago at a software engineering firm in southern California. His company was growing, and he had high hopes for his career. He boasted impeccable technical skills, felt like he had invested part of himself in his company, and was confident in his authority.
Nevertheless, Alan felt trapped. He harbored ambitions of climbing the corporate ladder but didn’t know where to begin. Eventually, he enlisted the help of an executive coach and realized that he needed to learn how to communicate more effectively at work. His problem was that team members followed his directions, but few people actually listened to him, and he rarely listened to them.
With the help of his coach, Alan put together a plan to increase his influence by focusing on building positive relationships at work. Here’s a summary of what he did:
- Started asking questions. By expressing an interest in the people around him, Alan forced them take notice of him. He also communicated his interest in them and their work.
- Shared his expertise freely with others. Alan looked for opportunities to help people who could benefit from his technical experience. Colleagues welcomed his assistance on difficult projects, and Alan’s efforts established him as a highly competent, go-to guy.
- Focused on staying optimistic in all of his interactions. People appreciate being around positive thinkers, and optimism is contagious. By staying positive, Alan was able to increase his likeability and improve the mood of his immediate work environment.
- Talked to everyone, regardless of their position. Alan did what I call influencing up, down, and laterally. He spent time engaging with his subordinates, colleagues, and superiors.
- Made promises and kept them. Rather than playing it safe and quietly fulfilling his duties, Alan went out of his way to make commitments and then delivered on them in a big way. Developing that level of trust dramatically increases influence.
Alan eventually went on to start his own IT services company—but not before landing a promotion at his company.
Alan’s metamorphosis is notable in how closely it reflects the five traits that all influential leaders possess that I identified in a previous article. He already possessed technical and professional competence, but by working on his goal of building positive relationships in the workplace, he was able to develop his interpersonal skills, professional reputation, executive presence, and persuasiveness.
For more ideas on how to get a promotion or become a master influencer, contact me—or read my new book, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level.