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:
- The "What-a-Great-Idea!" Trap
- You just made a great suggestion at a meeting, and ended up with responsibility for implementing it.
Not at all what you had in mind, but it's a trap you've fallen into before. How can you share your ideas
without risk of getting even more work to do?
- Dealing with Org Chart Age Inversions
- What happens when you learn that your new boss is younger than you are? Or when the first two applicants
you interview for a position reporting to you are ten years older than you are? Do you have a noticeable
reaction to org chart age inversions?
- Conflicts of Interest in Reporting
- Reporting is the process that informs us about how things are going in the organization and its efforts.
Unfortunately, the people who do the reporting often have a conflict of interest that leads to misleading
and unreliable reports.
- Why Don't They Believe Me?
- When we want people to believe us, and they don't, it just might be a result of our own actions or demeanor.
How does this happen?
- Power Affect
- Expressing one's organizational power to others is essential to maintaining it. Expressing power one
does not yet have is just as useful in attaining it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 21: Make Suggestions Privately
- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk. Available here and by RSS on November 21.
- And on November 28: Wacky Words of Wisdom: VI
- Adages, aphorisms, and "words of wisdom" seem valid often enough that we accept them as universal and permanent. Most aren't. Here's Part VI of a collection of widely held beliefs that can be misleading at work. Available here and by RSS on November 28.
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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.