I recently read a semi-hilarious story.
A manager invited one of her junior reports to a senior leader meeting. Everyone was seated and listening to the presentation when the junior team member pulled out a lunch sack and began eating a sandwich. The manager was super embarrassed and vowed never to bring this report to another key meeting. She asked him why he had done something so inappropriate. He responded that “you told me I should just be myself in the workplace.” Ok, he was young and naive, but as leaders, we have to help get people up to speed with our company culture. Our reputations depend on it!
Your career is fragile. Without the protections and pensions of the past, we all have to stay vigilant. In the workplace, it is crucial to know the right behaviours that will help you get ahead and those that cause you to get left behind. This time of year can be a tough one for many of us. It’s a few months after bonus time, year-end budgets have been approved and promotions have been offered. If you are an entrepreneur, you are probably waiting on big projects to get sign off after the summer holiday months. However, maybe you were not one of the lucky ones to get your budget increase or project sign off earlier in the year. Maybe rather than getting promoted you are worried about being made redundant or struggling to balance the books.
I’ve been there myself. Some years I feel like I’ve given it my all but the company is not in a strong place. I’ve been on teams where a newer person is promoted way ahead of people who have been in the office each day working in the trenches. At times, it really doesn’t seem fair at all. Have you noticed though that some people just seem to spring ahead and are successfully promoted and strong no matter what they do?
A few months ago I mentioned some of my favourite books and one of the runners-up is called Corporate Confidential. The book is written by two corporate HR types and talks about some of the top ways to get ahead if you are in the corporate world. I feel like this is a particularly important book now because generational changes have blurred a lot of lines about behaviour and how it contributes to our success. Understanding your company culture could mean the difference between moving ahead or being let go.
Most people will never have the heart to tell you what you are doing wrong, especially when you are very senior or have a lot of experience. There is a lot of embarrassment that comes along with these issues sometimes. I was at a party once and won a session with a local entrepreneur who did fashion styling. I had a great session but it was weird at the end when she asked for a tip. I thought it was strange but the session was free and really good so I was ok with it. Just a one-time thing, right? I even ended up buying two gift cards for friends. Sadly, both of them called later to say they had also received a mini-shakedown. I felt embarrassed. Why didn’t she raise prices to prevent embarrassment at the end? Or, just ask for a great online review? Once I finally worked up the courage to say something I found out that she had gone out of business.
My top tip?
Regularly ask people for feedback and be willing to accept their advice and views, even if they are hard to hear. People will not always tell you what you need to hear up front. Don’t get defensive, just listen. That might be the best career strategy
About the author
Joy Adams is a blogger and one of WATCs 2015 Rising Stars. She is a British-American businesswoman who has worked in both the public and private sectors in the US and UK. Joy currently serves on the Advisory Board for Vital Voices Europe, an organization dedicated to supporting and developing women leaders. She also writes a lifestyle blog for budding philanthropists and art collectors at Luxeher.com.
The Workher blog is all about taking your work life to the next level with practical tips and details on the latest news about pay, progression, and opportunities.