Got tips to get ahead at work?
Hi Ronnie Ann, I read your blog and it makes an interesting read. I am looking for answers about how to finally get ahead at work. Try as I might, I just can’t seem to get a promotion. And so I hope you can help me.
I have been working for more than 3 yrs in my company. When I joined I was at a fresher level. But I went on to become one of the leads (though not on paper). Just a year and half back I was transferred from my dept and moved to another dept.
I was doing pretty great there and was pinning my hopes on a promotion, which did not happen. Even though I got good appraisals. And as the process was closing down, there was no point on creating a scene about it.
New dept. but still can’t get ahead!
In my new dept. I let my boss know that I would like to lead a team (as this was something that I was doing in my earlier role). He told me he would make sure that he would do that. And so I waited.
The first six months I worked from an associate level trying to understand the process. After I understood the process completely, I was moved into a different team. Again I spoke with the Manager. Told him my concern, as I was aware that this could be one of the ploys of keeping me at an associate level itself. He assured me again.
Somehow after some months things picked up, as I had a talk with him again and I was been given other responsibilities. I had a lot on my plate and still managed to meet my deadlines and stay afloat. As I am of a reserved and an introvert nature, I kept my communication open with others. And I kept my communication with my manager to minimum, as he has a tendency to go hay-wire.
Now they think I’m arrogant!
Due to my nature, people get the wrong feeling that I am arrogant. I guess my boss thought that too. I got a feeling that he did not like me. As I found myself being targeted by people for my mistakes, sometimes even when it was not on my end. It was hard to see how I could get ahead at work, when they saw me this way.
Funny thing is when mistakes were made by others, some would be pushed under the carpet or simply ignored. Though I was doing good work, these things put me on a lot of stress. My direct supervisor was an idiot who would keep poking his nose in anyone’s work. And he used to play mind games.
Making move to leave gets new offer
My boss made my life hell. During the appraisal process I kind of got the hint that I was not going to be promoted. So I decided to quit my job. The next thing I know there were negotiations for me staying back, and also talks of me getting promoted.
Though I liked what I did, the only thing I got back was negative feedback and the positive feedback never came even when I handled certain situations very well. On the other hand, individuals who had better rapport with the manager got promoted without much responsibilities on their shoulders.
After some thought, I left it anyway. As I knew that they should have thought about it earlier.
“What I want to know is this …”
So what I want to know is … in today’s work life do I need to suck up to my bosses to get promoted? And is there no importance of individuals who are hard working — and at the same time don’t make a fuss about it. People who don’t play office politics.
Please let me know how one should be able to work in today’s work environment without getting dirty in office politics. And without sucking up to their bosses if that’s possible.
It would be great if you could help out.
And here’s my response:
I am so sorry you had to go through all that. I can tell that it was hard for you to keep going. Especially when all you got back felt like negative feedback. And thanks for asking a great question that I think many people wonder about.
When you ask about whether we really need to suck up to a boss to get ahead at work, the basic answer is NO. Many people get ahead without sucking up. And of course some people do suck up and get ahead. But if that’s all they have to offer, they eventually get stopped in their tracks.
My answer includes the idea that what one person calls sucking up may not be sucking up at all. It may simply be doing the job as they believe a job should be done. And finding a way to create a good working relationship with their boss.
Just because a person agrees with a boss or gains the boss’s favor by communicating regularly with them, doesn’t necessarily make them a suck up. But I know it feels that way sometimes. I am reminded of one of the most important things I’ve ever learned:
If you wait for others to change their behavior
you’ll never get anywhere in business.
I don’t think a person needs to “suck up” to get ahead. But I do think they need to learn to work with the boss they have. What some people call sucking up, may actually be a person who knows how to work with that particular boss. And how to communicate with them regularly.
Good people skills will serve you the rest of your working career — and that includes learning to make the most out of almost any boss. (Although some really are beyond help.) And there’s always the chance of another boss just like the old one wherever you go. So you might as well practice where you are.
It’s a little hard to explain, but it’s a perspective thing. If you think of it as sucking up, then you will always feel like you’re compromising who you are. But if you learn to effectively manage your work relationships, you’ll sail ahead faster than you ever done before.
By the way … I’m introverted too. So I know how that feels. But even an introvert can learn new tricks. Regular one-on-one communication along with an attitude of respect can help you go far. Add a dash of reaching out to help others, and you can shift things ever so slightly. Maybe just enough.
Sucking up or working smart?
I recently read something that Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company said in an interview:
Very few people are fired because they can’t do an ROI or use the tools you learn (in graduate business school). Where people inevitably run into trouble is their ability to manage expectations and relationships and effectively communicate.
You’ve already been at a higher level, so I know you must have many of the necessary skills to move ahead. But one of the greatest skills if you want to get ahead at work is figuring out how to learn from feedback. And then adjust your behavior accordingly if needed.
It’s NOT compromising who you are to learn to compromise — or to learn how to work with almost any boss. There might even be something useful to learn from being told that you come off arrogant. I’ll bet there are many people at the head of companies who have been called arrogant. But somewhere along the way they also learned how to communicate effectively. And manage relationships well.
So do you have to suck up?
I agree that it’s best to stay away from office politics if possible. But like it or not, your boss is in charge. (Most of my career, btw, I didn’t like it. But I’ve learned the hard way that even I wind up enjoying the job more when I’m not so wedded to being right all the time. 🙂 )
So the truth is … most of the time it’s not sucking up. It’s just doing your job. And creating a solid work relationship where you show respect and do your best. If we always think of it as sucking up, we’ll just come up against brick walls again and again in our careers!
Can you disagree with your boss? Absolutely! But there are ways to communicate an opinion and still show respect. (And there are times to know when to let things go.)
In the end, let’s face it … your boss has a right to go in a direction you don’t agree with. And quite honestly, working as part of the whole team (as opposed to being an outsider) is a lot more fun and rewarding.
Just my 2 1/2 cents. Feel free to disagree with me. Different opinions welcome here. 🙂
~ Ronnie Ann
[Article updated in 2020]
About the author…
Ronnie Ann, founder of Work To the Wise and Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development, as well as her many adventures as a serial job seeker.
Some posts to help
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