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December 4, 2018 3:46 AM   Subscribe

I recently posted a workplace-related question and got answers advising me to 'shore up my politically advantageous connections' within the workplace. What does this mean? What would such a thing look like in practice?

Recently I posted a question about my new boss, how he and I were not really getting on, and mentioned that I've worked in my current place of work for about 2 years, and know a lot of people. This mostly includes my peer group within the org but also a number of senior members of staff. I know people because I am chatty and like getting to know people. I also have to work with members of other teams on projects that span departments. I don't enjoy networking for the sake of it, but enjoy connecting with people genuinely over things. Some of the people I get on with in this way are quite senior to me, but I don't aim to 'get in' deliberately with the senior or powerful people.

I got some really good answers about how to deal with my new boss, who doesn't seem to have taken to me, and some of the advice I received was to 'shore up my politically advantageous connections'. I was going to post this question as a follow-up but wasn't sure how effective that would be so am posting it here. My question is: what does that look like in practice? I usually just chat with people in communal areas and catch up over things like what we did this weekend, TV shows we enjoy etc. I presume this is not the same thing. How does political networking look different from just shooting the breeze, and how does one do it exactly?

Sorry if this question isn't clear. It's not even clear in my head if I'm honest.
posted by Ziggy500 to Work & Money (9 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
it's tricky from organisation to organisation. A lot of it involves not only making yourself known and approachable (as you are doing) but also giving the impression of your professional worth and value. Making the higher ups understand that you can help them be better or look better. Don't be a suck up, but see if you can get involved in any of their initiatives, or at least have positive input. You are the person that is a great team player, has great deliverables and has an awesome, and demonstrated, value for the company - not just the friendly, chatty hire. Make sure they know that and not only your boss. Some other ways people have done this is by being that person that "knows where the bodies are buried" so they become de facto untouchable. Your mileage may vary with that approach.

Also, if your boss is looking to make you look bad - document everything. Have written correspondence with your commitments for deliveries. Don't rely on "he said / I said".
posted by alchemist at 4:03 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


A lot of it involves not only making yourself known and approachable (as you are doing) but also giving the impression of your professional worth and value. Making the higher ups understand that you can help them be better or look better.

This. Not entirely sure if this is what the person who posted this advice to 'shore up my politically advantageous connections' intended but it is something I really only learned in the last year, after seeing a profession coach (for burn out initially but mostly self worth at work).

What the coach helped me see was that I am in fact worth a lot to my employers, and that what I do makes them indeed look better and increase income.
I did certainly not go and tell them that! but what I did do was to list those things for myself and went through them with the coach (paid by my employer btw). But you can also list them on your own, and maybe go through them with a trusted friend.

This helped me immensely to value myself more. It changed how i think of myself and my place in the org, and so positively influenced my self value. Not sure if this makes sense, but what I try to say is look at what you do and how you contribute and let that sink in.
It also funny enough has made me more active in what one could call networking but I dont like using that word. I nurture professional relationsships more consciously now, but not in a calculating way simply in a way that comes natural to me and notice how people seek me out / reach out to me on a professional level in a new way and try to maintain the connection.

I also revived my long dormant linked-in, in order to keep in touch with professional contacts and - if you want to put it negatively - show off what I am involved in. I do this as in my particular job, event management of mostly closed to the public high level events, my success is defined and measured by my work going unnoticed. So I now use linked in to show what I do to professional connections, by posting about the public parts of these events.
posted by 15L06 at 4:27 AM on December 4, 2018 [6 favorites]


Possibly relevant anecdote: Once when a lot of people in my role were in danger of being laid off I had a clever boss who made sure I was working on tasks for influential senior staff in other parts of the organization. And somehow - I'm sure it was my boss's doing - they were all emailing my boss or his boss about how great my work was. I survived the layoffs.

Different situation, but some of the elements might be useful.
posted by bunderful at 5:30 AM on December 4, 2018 [9 favorites]


First, nobody likes networking for networking's sake. The fact that you are comfortable with casual connections is helpful.

Just take opportunities to be in front of people. Say hi when you see them. If you have a question or an idea or something that you thought in passing so-and-so might be interested in, now is a good time to reach out and ask/suggest/pass along that thing. If you have gone for coffee with person X or Y in the past but not for a while, do it now.

Not just higher ups; people at your level and below are helpful, too. They have their own relationships with decision makers, and if they value you, you are more valuable.

It's also a good time to reach out for advice to anyone who has mentored you in the past, or who you think would be open to mentoring you now. Like, someone who's offered you advice in a previous situation might be a good person to ask for advice on handling this new boss.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:29 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


It sounds like you already are doing well (here's a useful political skill inventory). To go farther, you could make an effort to connect with coworkers more on work issues. One example I remember from a college class that had us read Cialdini's Influence: people respond strongly to reciprocity. For example, if you take the time to share a useful link or do a favor unprompted for a coworker, they'll feel more inclined to go out of their way to help you in the future. Also, invite people to lunch every day, if you don't already. It's a good way to go deeper than a water cooler conversation.
posted by pinochiette at 6:35 AM on December 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


How does political networking look different from just shooting the breeze, and how does one do it exactly?

Each industry's and workplace's culture is so different. What's considered savvy in one may backfire in another. But in general, you have to 1) create actual value, and 2) be savvy about demonstrating your value to the organization and/or to people within it.

Creating value
What's your general work style? Doing only what is asked of you, even if you do it reliably, competently, and agreeably? Or working to solve the organization's strategic challenges and help to achieve its goals? You need to be doing the latter. What that looks like varies. It could be your researching the Next Big Thing for your industry and writing a white paper on how your organization might change to meet that demand. It could be introducing a person you know from a previous job to an exec in this org because you realized they could help each other out. It could be lots of things. Essentially, you're building your reputation as a go to person for solving business problems, not just for getting tasks done.

Demonstrating value
Get comfortable with tooting your own horn, but not at the water cooler. That's boorish. Write blog posts for the org, and cite your own contributions or expertise; couch it in terms of your company's capabilities. Hold brown bag lunchtime sessions on areas of your expertise, but also make it a forum for others to share theirs. Post that white paper on LinkedIn & Twitter, and tie it back to your company's strategic goals. At the holiday cocktail party, make sure to talk to at least one or two senior execs. If you already talk to them about water cooler stuff, get interested in and start talking about business topics. "I heard Industry Provocateur Joe Blow say fleebort about us. How does that view square with our 2019 widget forecast?"

This is cultural competence for the workplace. Calling it "networking" is accurate but not sufficient. Everybody hates networking, because the word brings to mind shaking hands with strangers and fumbling with business cards. But when you do the above--create value and demonstrate your value--you are organically building a network of people who know you, can say good things about your substance (not just your style), and will seek you out when they need your expertise. When you do that across all the jobs you've ever had, that's how you wind up with a large and healthy "network."
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 6:48 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hi, I was the person who gave you that particular advice in your previous question. I think it's great that you posted a separate follow-up question just on this topic. For the record, what I was thinking of aligns with these two responses:

> Once when a lot of people in my role were in danger of being laid off I had a clever boss who made sure I was working on tasks for influential senior staff in other parts of the organization. And somehow - I'm sure it was my boss's doing - they were all emailing my boss or his boss about how great my work was.

> Just take opportunities to be in front of people. Say hi when you see them. If you have a question or an idea or something that you thought in passing so-and-so might be interested in, now is a good time to reach out and ask/suggest/pass along that thing. If you have gone for coffee with person X or Y in the past but not for a while, do it now.

As also mentioned above, not networking just to network or getting obsequious about a big boss's pet project or anything else that sounds like something from a bad sitcom plot. Just...take what you're already doing (because honestly, you sound like you're doing all the right things already) and keep an extra eye open for opportunities to be in front of senior staff.
posted by desuetude at 7:19 AM on December 4, 2018


Basically, the short answer is to make sure that the influential people that you're chummy with know that you're not only a really nice person who's got good opinions about TV, but also a talented and hard-working team member who is valuable to the company. If another person who doesn't know you (maybe someone your manager badmouthed you to) asks one of your senior staff chat-buddies "who is Ziggy500?", you want your chat-buddy to give you a professional reference to counteract whatever's coming from your manager.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


There's a lot of great advice already, but two add-ons:

1) Ask for help -- When you're talking to the higher-ups, mention that you'd like to ask you how they'd handle a situation. Somewhat counter-intuitively, asking people for (reasonable) help makes people like you more, and shows you think highly of and trust them. It also invests them in you. If you help someone, you care about them more and want them to succeed. When I've been in similar situations, I avoid using names and keep my questions vague, but find generally the person wants to dive-in, and I eventually spill a bit more. This leads nicely into...

2) Write the first version of history -- More a political tactic than a shoring-up strategy, but something I think is worthwhile in your situation. It's great that you are documenting everything. But don't hold your cards too close to your chest. Share, even if obliquely, that things are going a bit askew. You don't want [new boss] to establish the narrative. You want to establish the narrative. Especially if, as it sounds like, you don't often engage in workplace drama, people will take notice and take you seriously. When [helpful team player who never complains and everyone likes] starts complaining, management red flags go up. They can only help you if they know there's a problem, and you want to be the one to tell them what the problem is.
posted by matrixclown at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2018 [7 favorites]


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