By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. When I was young and dumb, I believed in ideas like fairness and justice, but after seeing what goes on in my workplace I'm feeling bitter. I notice promotions aren't usually about skills or contribution. What am I missing that would allow me to get ahead without feeling powerless and unappreciated?
A. What you are missing is that the workplace is a life-size chessboard. Getting ahead is never about raw skills or effort but about strategy. Without strategy you can be brilliant and productive and still get very little reward.
When I emphasize strategy, my new clients sometimes believe I am suggesting you run around like a narcissist manipulating everyone toward your personal goals. The truth is narcissists only get short-term results because their lack of empathy makes it impossible to predict the reactions of others. Without empathy, you will never create win/win strategies that create an interpersonal network supporting your goals.
There was a popular book years ago titled "Winning through Intimidation." I thought the idea of the book was funny, since scaring people only works for a minute ... and then everyone gets even with you for bullying them. I have found it is impossible to win if people fear and hate you.
People can go into the workplace thinking there are two ways to succeed. Bully everyone into doing what they want or work hard and suffer until someone notices your contribution and magically rewards you. The truth is neither theory works.
When you go into your office, you'll enjoy work more if you are brilliant and productive, but first examine the chessboard. The chessboard is composed of all the players (people) around you who you can move (influence). Just as a chess master spends lots of time studying the chessboard, you need to be willing to look at your interpersonal network as a complex system.
Chess masters win at chess because they are willing to study the chess board and don't react impulsively or emotionally. They sit back study the board, and consider how the other player may react to all the alternative moves. Then, and only then, they take action.
What if next time you have a puzzling problem, you adopt the game plan of playing chess. Evaluate all the players; what do they want, what problems do they have, and how could you help them? Consider all the alternate moves you could make. Now consider how each player would react to those actions. Notice your emotions but don't base your decisions on feelings.
If the strategy you select doesn't work, then be willing to learn from your mistakes. One of the best teachers in the school of hard knocks is Professor Failure. My clients often find that is the 1,001st strategy they try that works. Don't give up because you haven't arrived at the right strategy ... yet.
When you walk in your workplace this Monday, trade your frustration and powerlessness for the awareness you are on the corporate chessboard. The game is never over, unless you are unwilling to learn and try something new!
The last word(s)
Q. I think one of my coworkers is gorgeous. Is there a downside to asking her out?
A. Yes, unless you think she is the "one," you can find a new girlfriend easier than you can find a new job. Decide whether you are willing to change jobs if the date becomes a disaster.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.
This article was printed in the March 6, 2016 - March 19, 2016 edition.