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:
- Are You a Fender?
- Taking political risks is part of the job, especially if you want the challenges and rewards that come
with increased responsibility. That's fair. But some people manage political risks by offloading them
onto subordinates. Be certain that the risk burden you carry is really your own — and that you
carry all of it yourself.
- Responding to Threats: I
- Threats are one form of communication common to many organizational cultures, especially as pressure
mounts. Understanding the varieties of threats can be helpful in determining a response that fits for you.
- In workplace politics, some people always seem to be seeking information about others, but they give
very little in return. They're pumpers. What can you do to deal with pumpers?
- How to Undermine Your Boss
- Ever since I wrote "How to Undermine Your Subordinates," I've received scads of requests for
"How to Undermine Your Boss." Must be a lot of unhappy subordinates out there. Well, this
one's for you.
- Durable Agreements
- People at work often make agreements in which they commit to cooperate — to share resources, to
assist each other, or not to harm each other. Some agreements work. Some don't. What makes agreements durable?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- The bane of meetings everywhere, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, has been digressions. But there are reasons to expect the incidence of digressions in meetings to increase now. What reasons could there be, and what can we do about digressions? Available here and by RSS on April 8.
- And on April 15: Incompetence: Traps and Snares
- Sometimes people judge as incompetent colleagues who are unprepared to carry out their responsibilities. Some of these "incompetents" are trapped or ensnared in incompetence, unable to acquire the ability to do their jobs. Available here and by RSS on April 15.
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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.