Browsing the archives for the savvy tag.

Fighting Sabotage part 2

Geek 5, Org savvy

In this post, we’ll continue with an overview of Survival of the Savvy by Brandon and Seldman.  As we discussed previously, there are many different types of corporate sabotage, and all of them can impact your effectiveness and potentially derail your career.  Now we’ve identified the problem, so what’s the solution?

The first thing to do is be aware that sabotage exists and keep your eyes open for it.  Refer to the previous post for a reminder about what it can look like.

Some additional things will help you put up a defense, so you are less vulnerable to sabotage.

One of those is to be careful about favors.  If someone asks you do do something questionable or to speak for them on a controversial issue, realize that they are intentionally or perhaps unintentionally trying to manipulate you. Sometimes a co-worker will put you into a position to make a risky suggestion or take an unpopular stance.  Once you speak up and get negative attention, he or she backs off and leaves you hanging. 

I had a personal failure in this area in the past.   A  co-worker got me all riled up about an issue.  I was new to the company and did not realize it was a sensitive topic.  I spoke up with great passion about the issue in a meeting with peers and the boss and predictably got struck down quickly.  He stayed clear of the whole issue after manipulating me in to doing his dirty work.  I was under-political and did not recognize the risk.  Now I’m much more careful about what I say and how I say it.  I always make sure that I am representing my own thoughts and not those of someone else.

Another strategy is to stall for time.  If you sense more going on than someone is saying, don’t commit to anything.  Say that you need some time to think about an idea or request and to check your schedule, before you can give a response.  Stalling buys you time to investigate the situation and find out if there is more going on and whether or not you want to get involved.

To fight back against sabotage, you must stop being a victim and an underdog – without becoming overly aggressive or offensive. Some ways to stop being a victim include:

  • Check your self-talk – keep your ego out of the conversation and make sure you don’t fall for taunting
  • Don’t apologize when you are not to blame – it positions you as subservient
  • Use appropriate humor to defuse a situation
  • Use active listening to take the wind out of someone’s anger. Listen carefully and repeat back what you hear. Sometimes the chance to vent can defuse the situation.
  • When facing an accusation, ask for specifics. Don’t accept an accusation of incompetence – ask for specific situations or behaviors that concern someone.
  • Give balanced responses
  • Play hardball when you need to, but do it thoughtfully. Make sure the battle is worth fighting and that you have a chance of winning.

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Fighting Sabotage part 1

Geek 5, Org savvy

There are two specific survival tactics that Brandon and Seldman address in Survival of the Savvy that are particularly relevant to geeks. One is how to deal with sabotage and the other is how to read power dynamics. By nature of being under-political and usually introverted, geeks often struggle with these – and they can be career killers.

Sabotage can take many forms. They describe behind-the-scenes sabotage as occurring indirectly and sometimes so subtly that you don’t even know it is happening. This can include gossip, rumor and bad-mouthing as well as planting seeds of doubt and marginalizing. Marginalizing can occur when a colleague tries to pigeon-hole you. For geeks, this could happen when someone says that you are so good at your technical area that you can’t be spared for a larger executive role. This is round-about sabotage with a compliment about your skills embedded in it – but it can result in you being stuck where you are.

Out-of-the-loop sabotage is also indirect but limits your access to resources and diminishes your impact. It includes withholding information, cutting physical resources, headcount or budget, assignment to corporate Siberia and butt-of-the-joke humor. I’ve seen all of these in play and seen the damage they can cause. In my company, you don’t get a physical reassignment to Siberia. Instead the kiss-of-death is to be reassigned to “special projects” when no projects have been identified. As for humor, I know a VP who constantly teases one of his female direct reports about what a poor performer she is (she is actually quite strong). They’ve worked together a long time, and I believe he does it with fondness. Even so, the outcome is that other colleagues underestimate her and it keeps her at a disadvantage. I think she’s getting frustrated with it as well.

In addition to the indirect types of sabotage, there is also out-in-the-open sabotage. That is easier to detect, but just as damaging. It includes sarcasm and insults; fixing blame; interrupting, steamrolling and freezing out; condescending and patronizing; and testing, tripping up or exposing. One of my colleagues tends to finish other people’s sentences. She doesn’t always finish it correctly. In any case, it is rude and disconcerting and takes attention away from the person speaking. She does it so “sweetly” that most people don’t recognize it as sabotage.

Depressed yet? Yes, it is a lot to think about it. Part of becoming a “power of savvy” person who is balanced politically is understanding and being able to recognize the negative side of corporate life. Once recognized, you can counteract it – without becoming manipulative or losing your integrity. You can fight back and stay true to yourself.

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Fighting the flaws

Geek 5, Org savvy

I’ve described some potential risk factors for under political (UP) people. If you are at risk for some of those, you need to focus on becoming more balanced and moving toward the center of the continuum. With balance, you can have a “power of the savvy” style and have impact with integrity.

To get there, you need to:

– Keep your values but add political skill
– Move from selfless to self-ful
– Add influence and impact to integrity

Please notice that these recommendations never suggest that you need to become a ruthless shark in order to succeed. You need to keep the core foundation of your work ethic and integrity. You should just add some additional skills to your repertoire.

Brandon and Seldman identify a series of savvy tactics:

– Map political styles

– Deactivate your political buttons

– Detect power dynamics, agendas, and unwritten rules

– Know the corporate buzz

– Weave a safety network

– Manage the airwaves

– Promote yourself with integrity

– Pump up your power image

– Address hidden agendas

– Defuse sabotage

 In the next post, we’ll delve into some of these – defusing sabotage and reading power dynamics.  For more details on the rest of these, check out the book.

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Defining Organizational Politics

Geek 5, Org savvy

The tagline for Geeks Gone Pro is “Gain professional savvy to advance your career”.  Of the Geek 5, one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome is resistance to a broader role.  Frequently people tell me that they “don’t want to play the political game”.  The reality is that if you are working in a group with two or more people there are always some politics going on.  The key is define what that all means and determine how you can stay true to your principles while it is occurring.

There is a book called Survival of the Savvy by Rick Brandon and Marty Seldman that I use a lot in my work. This book does a terrific job of framing the importance of savvy for career and company success. The authors present a compelling model of the dangers of being under political and the dangers of being over political. They guide readers to find a balance that will serve them well at work. Over the next few posts, we’re going to explore some elements of this book and discuss how they apply to geeks.

On page one, Brandon and Seldman tackle two key issues that I often see when coaching geeks. The first is to recognize that corporate politics do exist. Anyone naïve enough to try to ignore politics will usually find their career at a dead end or at least in a holding pattern. Acknowledging that politics exist is the first challenge. They describe this as a “corporate survival of the fittest.

The second issue they address on page one is the fact that the word “politics” is usually spun as a dirty word. The word connotes manipulation and compromising values for self-serving purposes. Recent events on Wall Street have proven to us that the negative side of politics definitely exist. Even so, Brandon and Seldman  argue that organizational politics can also be positive – they call this “high-integrity politics“. Before you react to this idea, consider their definition and explanation. They define organizational politics as:

…informal, unofficial, and sometimes behind-the-scenes efforts to sell ideas, influence an organization, increase power, or achieve other targeting objectives.

From this definition, politics can be neutral or even positive if the targeted objectives are focused on the good of the company or team and if the influence tactics have integrity (legal and fair).

Get comfortable with the idea that politics exist and that they can be positive as well as negative.  Once you open to that idea, you can identify politics and react to political maneuvering.

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