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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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 situationsmight 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-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.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Currying Favor
- The behavior of the office kiss-up drives many people bats. It's more than annoying, though —
it does real harm to the organization. What is the behavior?
- Practice Positive Politics
- Politics is a dirty word at work, as elsewhere. We think of it as purely destructive, often distorting
decisions and leading the organization in wrong directions. And sometimes, it does. Politics can be
constructive, though, and you can help to make it so.
- The Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: I
- Organizational processes can get so complicated that nobody actually knows how they work. If getting
something done takes too long, the organization can't lead its markets, or even catch up to the leaders.
Why does this happen?
- Yet More Obstacles to Finding the Reasons Why
- Part III of our catalog of obstacles encountered in retrospectives, when we try to uncover why we succeeded
— or failed.
- I Don't Understand: I
- When someone makes a statement or offers an explanation that's unclear or ambiguous, there are risks
associated with asking for clarification. The risks can seem so terrifying that we decide not to ask.
What keeps us from seeking clarification?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming January 29: Higher-Velocity Problem Definition
- Typical approaches to shortening time-to-market for new products usually involve accelerating problem solving. Accelerating problem definition can also help. Available here and by RSS on January 29.
- And on February 5: Unrecognized Bullying: I
- Much workplace bullying goes unrecognized. Three reasons: (a) conventional definitions of bullying exclude much actual bullying; (b) perpetrators cleverly evade detection; and (c) cognitive biases skew our perceptions so we don't see bullying as bullying. Available here and by RSS on February 5.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.
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.