Would you like to master office politics and make sure you're never overlooked at work?
In his book Conversation Tactics: Workplace Strategies--Win Office Politics, Disarm Difficult Coworkers, Get Ahead & Rise To The Top, Patrick King teaches how to make the best impression on the people in your job, which he intriguingly suggests is far more important than the actual work we deliver.
King starts with the premise that the office is not a meritocracy and covers tactics and tips to take advantage of this fact, even if you are at the top of the heap work and skill-wise. In fact, those are the people that are most routinely overlooked.
Here are several practical tips that King offers to help you achieve whatever your goal at the office is.
Tip 1: Move The Goal Posts
King cites research that states what people are seeking in the office is not what you might think. People are in the office to do a job and ultimately get paid for it, but in a 2013 study, 83% of respondents said that the simple feeling of recognition and validation was more important than any financial payoff.
Surprising perhaps, but this makes workplace competition much easier to deal with. Simply validate, acknowledge, recognize, and assign credit to others as often as possible - especially in public and in front of other people. Don't miss a thing - the things that we take for granted are often what people are seeking validation on.
This advice is congruent with what my own research indicates. Recognition is one of the top three drivers of employee engagement; if you want someone to feel emotionally "connected" to you, showing appreciation for their efforts and results is a foundational step.
Tip 2: Effective Listening By Derailing Your Trains
Especially in the workplace, we go into conversations with things we need to convey and get off of our chests with little regard for the other party. As long as we say what we need, we feel that the conversation is a success.
But that's an approach that is completely devoid of listening and especially listening with intent and purpose as you might need in the workplace.
Effective listening is about staying in the present moment and conversation - we often speak over others or interrupt them because we feel like we'll lose something forever if we don't blurt it out at that moment.
King says you need to "derail your train of thought" - let that interruption happen - and put yourself into the present moment and conversation and simply react to the other person instead of waiting for your turn to speak.
Tip 3: Make Requests Easy To Fulfill
I like to believe that people are good-natured inherently and this means they will help others if they have the availability and ability to do so.
When you make a request of others, or ask for help, people are usually willing as long as you check off two mental boxes.
First, you need to make your request or ask as easy as possible for them to say yes to. This means inconveniencing yourself and interrupting your own schedule to say "How about only 15 minutes, at your office and do you take your coffee with cream and sugar?" That's pretty easy to say yes to and it shows a large degree of self-awareness.
Second, there must be a plausible reason why you are making the request in the first place. If you've made an effort, have done your own research and have specific questions, then people are all too happy to help guide and direct. What's less attractive is when people clearly are just looking for a shortcut and haven't put in any work themselves, but are expecting to use your time as a substitute.
Tip 4: Visual Notes
Richard Branson's key piece of advice is that everyone should carry a notebook with them everywhere they go. King makes the same recommendation for these two reasons.
First, you clearly create a paper trail of communication. This allows you to keep track of a project or assignment's progress, milestones, comments, and questions in an organized manner that will improve feedback and continuity.
Second, there's a large degree of perception when you visually take notes on a piece of paper in front of someone. It says to them that what you've said has impacted them so much that they feel the need to do their own research, or there was so much value they don't want to forget your words. It provides a feeling of validation that is unmatched in the office.
If you're looking around and constantly wondering why you're not at a higher position, then look no further - it's because of your workplace conversations. In Conversation Tactics: Workplace Strategies, Patrick King provides a framework, actionable advice, and thorough examples and sample dialogue to take us to that next level.