So much of our success in the workplace has to do with how we put ourselves across to other people. It's part image and part people skills. Positive evaluations, raises, and promotions depend largely on being "you at your best" while getting the job done.
Here are a Few Do's and Don'ts to Up Your Savvy:
• Never Poke Your Boss In The Eye. Not literally, of course, although it goes without saying that the literal act would definitely show a lack of savvy. What we are talking about here is not being critical of your boss with your peers and others in the workplace. No superior enjoys the feeling of being bad-mouthed, especially by his or her subordinates. You can be sure that someone will make certain the boss knows what is being said. Think of the boss not as an antagonist but as someone who needs your help. You might be surprised what that simple change in attitude can do.
• Don't Tango Alone. Even the best idea needs time to percolate, especially if it affects jobs. You may believe your idea is absolutely the best ever, and that it isn't necessary to explain all its ramifications to everyone. Getting agreement may slow the process down. But, single-minded attention to your own area of responsibility can be perceived as self-serving. At a minimum, it will brand you as a loner rather than a team player. Take the time to sell your idea to all who might be interested.
• Know When To Ride With Your Boss. Similarly, when the boss asks staff to suggest solutions for a problem or ideas for a project, recognize that once he or she chooses among all the ideas put forward, you need to support the decision. Take the route your boss wants just because he or she wants it. It isn't important to be right all the time. Sometimes showing savvy at work means knowing when to be supportive of another person's decisions.
• Stay Above The Fray. Unless you have the wits of Machiavelli, it is not a good idea to immerse yourself in company politics. Because organizational decisions are typically complex, positioning or manipulating circumstances for your benefit is likely to get in the way of real performance on the job. And when the overriding goal is to undermine the other guy, teamwork suffers. That said, steering clear of internal politics can be tricky. If a colleague attempts to draw you into his or her sphere, don't be abrasive, but do your best to stay noncommittal. Concentrate on your results. Avoid stepping into the fray unless you believe professional ethics or safety are at risk.
• Never Scribble On The Walls And Sign Your Name. By the same token, if you are totally opposed to the way an organization functions, you'd be wise to look for a job that better suits you and your work style. Don't criticize the attitudes, values, or approaches of the powers that be. Complaining and dragging your feet on assignments will make you look bad and cause co-workers to devalue what you say. You will miss out on that raise or promotion and you will limit your options. Always do the best job you can do. Being savvy at work includes accepting that no job is perfect and working with other people always requires some give and take.
• Don't Wear Your Pajamas To Work. There is plenty of truth to the expression "dress for success." How you look when you come to work says a lot about your confidence, your feelings about the job, and your sense of competence. Go unpressed, unwashed, slouchy, or even sleazy, and others will not take your seriously. At the same time, don't think that a slick facade is all you need to succeed. There has to be substance behind that expensive suit or outfit. Incompetence is hard to hide in the long run.
• Finally--But Importantly--Don't Be A Doormat. Wanting to get ahead is considered a good thing. It shows you have career goals and a sense of personal direction. If the boss doesn't know you are eager to get ahead, you could be overlooked. As the Bible tells us, no one lights a lamp to keep it under a bushel. Be confident and let your light shine when it's appropriate.
Written by Marcia Carteret, M.Ed. and Interculturalist. Ms. Carteret is a writer and lecturer on a range of mental and physical healthcare topics. She has been a regular contributor and consultant to COPE. To learn more about Marcia go to www.dimensionsofculture.com
Edited by Greg Kelly.
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