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.
- When the Answer Isn't the Point: I
- When we ask each other questions, the answers aren't always what we seek. Sometimes the behavior of
the respondent is what matters. Here are some techniques questioners use when the answer to the question
wasn't the point of asking.
- The Utility Pole Anti-Pattern: 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.
- Flattery and Its Perils
- Flattery is a tool of manipulation. When skillfully employed, it's difficult to distinguish from praise
or admiration. When we confuse flattery with praise, we are in peril.
- The Politics of Forming Joint Leadership Teams
- Some teams, business units, or enterprises are led not by individuals, but by joint leadership teams
of two or more. They face special risks that arise from both the politics of the joint leadership team
and the politics of the organization hosting it.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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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.