Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 38;   September 18, 2013: Social Entry Strategies: Part I

Social Entry Strategies: Part I

by

Much more than work happens in the workplace. We also engage in social behaviors, including one sometimes called social entry. We use social entry strategies to make places for ourselves in social groups at work.
U.S. Military Academy graduates toss their hats during commencement ceremonies at West Point, New York, May 23, 2009

U.S. Military Academy graduates toss their hats during commencement ceremonies at West Point, N.Y., May 23, 2009. It's a scene of intense celebration, a tradition that dates back to 1946. But not every cadet at every graduation experiences pure exultation. James Pelosi, class of 1973, graduated under a cloud that arose from charges of cheating on an exam. Although the charges had been dismissed, at the time, West Point's honor code held that a cadet who broke the Honor Code and did not leave the Academy "will not be allowed to have roommates. He will eat at a separate table. He will be addressed only on official business and then as Mister." More: The Baltimore Sun and The Toledo Blade.

This treatment, known as "The Silence," is one of a class of patterns that social groups use to control entry. They're designed to defeat any entry strategy a joiner might deploy, often, as in this case, with the goal of compelling the joiner to break off all attempts to enter. Photo by Master Sgt. Jerry Morrison, courtesy United States Army.

When we join groups at work, or professional groups elsewhere, we must find space for ourselves and our contributions. Some groups are welcoming. Some aren't. Some joinings are voluntary. Sometimes we're invited. Sometimes we're assigned. Finding space requires different strategies for different situations.

Yet some of us use only a few entry strategies for all situations. Since some strategies work better than others, choosing from a variety of approaches can enhance professional entry experiences. Here's Part I of a short catalog of common workplace social entry strategies, beginning with strategies that emphasize the stance of the joiner.

Differentiating
By differentiating ourselves, we emphasize our personal uniqueness — our special knowledge, experience, and capabilities. This strategy works well when the group recognizes its need for whatever we uniquely possess.
Differentiating can be problematic if what we assume is unique about ourselves actually is not. For example, we might assume that we have special skills when some long-time members of the group also have those skills.
Harmonizing
Harmonizing is the dual of differentiating. Harmonizers emphasize their compatibility with the group's goals, outlook, or abilities. Harmonizing works well when the group views itself as unified overall.
Harmonizing strategies can be problematic, for example, when the group isn't involved in the member selection process. In these cases, harmonizing strategies can seem to be overly ingratiating.
Feeling
The object of feeling strategies is building emotional bonds between the joiner and the group and its members. The basis of the bond might be shared affinity for some person, ideology, or goal, but it might also be shared revulsion.
Feeling strategies might be problematic when the group values rationality over emotion. In these instances, feeling strategies can be augmented with harmonizing on the basis of rational argument.
Pairing
Those who employ pairing strategies use their connection to one particular group member as a basis for connecting to the group and its other members. In effect, the pair connection acts as an endorsement of the joiner.
Pairing strategies Finding space for ourselves
in a new group requires
different strategies for
different situations
might be problematic when the joiner pairs with a member whose status within the group is either very high or low. When the existing group member has low status, the joiner might inherit low status. When the existing group member has high status, some other members might react as if the joiner is exploiting the pair connection, and is therefore undeserving of entry on his or her own merits.
Horn-blowing
Horn-blowers seek entry by promoting their own attributes and accomplishments, real or imagined. Horn blowing differs from differentiating, because the joiner's attributes and accomplishments are not necessarily different from those of other members of the group.
Horn blowing can be problematic when the attributes or accomplishments are unimpressive or they are shown to be overblown or fictitious.

We'll continue this exploration of social entry strategies next time. Next in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Social Entry Strategies: Part II  Next Issue

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenWtCAELgspZPDTqDIner@ChacXbGkTZQmYCbvxIudoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Workplace Politics:

The Roman ColosseumDevious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part I
While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control, or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Understanding the risks of these tactics can motivate you to find another way.
One of the Franklin Milestones on the Boston Post RoadManaging Pressure: Milestones and Deliveries
Pressed repeatedly for "status" reports, you might guess that they don't want status — they want progress. Things can get so nutty that responding to the status requests gets in the way of doing the job. How does this happen and what can you do about it? Here's Part III of a set of tactics and strategies for dealing with pressure.
A dead Manchurian AshWorkplace Politics and Type III Errors
Most job descriptions contain few references to political effectiveness, beyond the fairly standard collaborate-to-achieve-results kinds of requirements. But because true achievement often requires political sophistication, understanding the political content of our jobs is important.
J. R. R. Tolkien (aged 24) in army uniform. Photograph taken in 1916.Some Hazards of Skip-Level Interviews: Part I
Although skip-level interviews have their place, they can be dangerous, explosive, and harmful to the organization. What are the dangers?
A particularly complicated but well-ordered utility poleThe Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: Part II
Complex organizational processes can delay action. They can set people against one other and prevent organizations from achieving their objectives. In this Part II of our examination of these complexities, we look into what keeps processes complicated, and how to deal with them.

See also Workplace Politics and Virtual and Global Teams for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

kudzu enveloping a Mississippi landscapeComing April 5: Listening to Ramblers
Ramblers are people who can't get to the point. They ramble, they get lost in detail, and listeners can't follow their logic, if there is any. How can you deal with ramblers while maintaining civility and decorum? Available here and by RSS on April 5.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2016And on April 12: How to Listen to Someone Who's Dead Wrong
Sometimes we must listen attentively to someone with whom we strongly disagree. The urge to interrupt can be overpowering. How can we maintain enough self-control to really listen? Available here and by RSS on April 12.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenCugVHHVjlMYdtyPTner@ChacocShDdSmoeSRbFFXoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Changing How We Change: The Essence of Agility
MasteChanging How We Change: The Essence of Agilityry of the ability to adapt to unpredictable and changing circumstances is one way of understanding the success of Agile methodologies for product development. Applying the principles of Change Mastery, we can provide the analogous benefits in a larger arena. By exploring strategies and tactics for enhancing both the resilience and adaptability of projects and portfolios, we show why agile methodologies are so powerful, and how to extend them beyond product development to efforts of all kinds. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
Please donate!The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…

Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.

303 Secrets of Workplace PoliticsIs every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics!
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
My free weekly email newsletter gives concrete tips and suggestions for dealing with the challenging but everyday situations we all face.
A Tip A DayA Tip a Day arrives by email, or by RSS Feed, each business day. It's 20 to 30 words at most, and gives you a new perspective on the hassles and rewards of work life. Most tips also contain links to related articles. Free!
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.