September 10, 2021 • By Dennis Beaver
“Mr. Beaver, my husband, ‘Jamie’ thinks that he is the victim of racial discrimination at work and is speaking to lawyers about a possible lawsuit. He has not been promoted and feels somewhat shunned, “Angela’s” email began.
“We have the same employer and I’ve seen no evidence of discrimination or illegal conduct by management. I believe it is his aloof, non-sharing–using others behavior that is responsible for his lack of advancement. We are both Black, and I have told him to stop playing the race card and grow up.
“This is having an impact on our marriage. Do you know of any relevant books or TED lectures I can sit him down to watch that might wake him up? We both read your column and I think he will pay attention to your suggestions.”
Angela’s email came at the right time, as the day before I had a delightful interview with Dorie Clark: TED lecturer, author of The Long Game, Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out. She is also an adjunct professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.
Dorie is a powerhouse of ideas with a message: “I would really like to improve society by getting talented people to contribute and to have their ideas appreciated and recognized rather than just the people with the loudest voices in the room.”
I asked her to list some of the ways we can be our own worst enemies on the job.
1 – Fail to Share Your Ideas Publicly:
Consequences: If you don’t share your ideas publicly, only those people who directly work with you have a sense of what you are capable of doing. By sharing your ideas, they can spread and a wider audience will know that you are of real value to your employer and merit promotion.
2 – Go it alone – Fail to build a network of professional colleagues.
Consequences: You can succeed for a while being a lone wolf, but eventually you need to have other people support and advocate for you. If no one knows you that well — because you’ve not built those relationships — this is when your career will stagnate.
3 – Only focus on your current assignment. Fail to think about your long term professional development.
Consequences: You won’t advance. It is essential to always have in mind your long term career growth. This often includes building new skills through taking classes and cultivating relationships both inside and outside of your industry. In so doing you enhance your chances of discovering new ideas which lead to future professional opportunities.
It is essential to set aside time for doing long term thinking and creating a future vision of where you want to go and what you want to be.
4 – Ask for favors right away.
Consequences: If you meet someone and immediately approach them about a high-stakes favor, it is very likely they will feel used. As a result, you risk burning the relationship before it even starts. So, build true connections before asking for favors.
5 – Fail to appreciate people who have helped you! Just move on after someone has done you a favor.
Consequences: If you don’t circle back and thank them it is unlikely they will ever want to do a favor for you again. You will acquire a reputation of being a user and an ingrate. Worse yet, because of this negative reputation, you will not be kept in the loop and won’t even hear about opportunities. Finally, never forget that people talk and word spreads to folks you do not know.
6 – Fail to acknowledge important events in your colleagues’ lives, such as if someone close to them dies. Just remove emotions from you’re on the job life and expect others to think only of work.
Consequences: It will feel insulting and heartless, especially if, for example, you send them an email asking, “Where is the report?” It is enormously meaningful when people are grieving to have someone reach out with flowers or a card, or even a kind word to check in.
7 – If your organization’s culture is to split the bill or rotate buying lunch for the group, be the person who refuses.
Consequences: You look cheap and supremely self-centered. People stop inviting you.
8 – Resent the success of your colleagues. Let it be known that you, instead of John, should have gotten that promotion and you are not going to make life easy for him.
Consequences: You are brewing trouble that does not need to be there. The other person probably had positive feelings about you, until you behaved in a hostile manner. This give you a reputation as being petty and not focused on the good of the company.
Concluding our interview, Dorie offered this thought:
“Ultimately, advancing in your career doesn’t have to be a Machiavellian power struggle against other people. Instead, it’s about doing the right thing, being generous in your inter-actions, and looking for ways to grow professionally while also benefitting your company.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.