Feeling Powerless At Work? 10 Techniques to Regain Power
Via LinkedIn : Bill Pieroni – Chief Executive Officer of ACORD
Power, politics, and positioning in the workplace often stir up negative connotations – ruthless, conniving, and even amoral. However, understanding the power behind these levers can better position employees to navigate today’s office dynamics. Both early-career and experienced professionals can find themselves in situations where not appreciating “unspoken” office rules have a negative impact on their overall comfort level. Developing a plan to embrace workplace politics and leveraging tools and techniques can increase both actual and perceived power.
However, there is an important caveat – use of these tools is not about blatant power grabs or solely for self-serving reasons. Rather, these techniques are about positioning yourself for impact.
Most of us start new roles with enthusiasm and high levels of engagement. This period can be followed by feelings of uncertainty and even regret. This in turn can lead to questions about whether to stay or leave. At this point, professionals often make one of three choices: 1) reengage and achieve material impact, 2) remain at the job in a disengaged state, or 3) leave the job. It may seem easier to leave due to feelings of powerlessness, but it’s a mistake to not first give yourself the opportunity to remain and thrive. Before disengaging or leaving, you have options that should be tried.
Support your manager. Back your manager – make your manager look good and avoid outshining them. Give or share credit, leverage your network to aid manager priorities, and keep them informed to prevent surprises. They will feel positively about themselves and you, and you will avoid creating any insecurity.
Trust cautiously. Show restraint – be careful of trusting others too much, too soon. Trust is essential to cultivating strong relationships at work, but blind trust may put you at risk of betrayal. Be thoughtful about who you trust until you can confidently identify who is authentic.
Stand out in the crowd. Be visible – perception is reality in the workplace. The feeling of powerlessness may make you want to fade into the background and keep your head down, but you can’t afford to get lost in the crowd. You should draw positive attention from those around you without distracting from your manager.
Prioritize actions. Get things done – words are fleeting and are for the moment. Empty promises create resentment and ill will, while taking action and following through encourage trust and support. Understand and reflect the difference between the appearance of accomplishing something vs. actually accomplishing something.
Appeal to self-interest. Align requests for help with a colleague’s needs – self-interest can be a more powerful motivator than altruism. Avoid relying on past assistance when asking for cooperation. Instead, identify how your colleague can benefit from assisting you and frame the request accordingly.
Create value through scarcity. Be strategically absent – supply and demand is relevant on a professional level as well. Making yourself too accessible can decrease your value in the eyes of others. While saying “yes” to requests can support learning, visibility, and network development, selectively say “no” when your ability for impact is limited.
Act boldly…but only if you’re sure. Understand before acting – bold actions show confidence. Be thoughtful if you are unsure, and once you are reasonably certain, don’t hesitate. You may be tempted to test the waters before following through entirely, but avoid timidity.
Make your work look effortless. Look natural – no one needs to know how much effort went into your work. Avoid the temptation of telling others how much you worked to achieve a particular goal or finish a project. A relaxed attitude and an “it was nothing” can dramatically affect your sense of power and ultimate impact.
Understand your colleagues. Get to know your coworkers – knowing how to interact with them is crucial to becoming part of the team. Connect with them in an authentic manner. If you don’t become a part of the group, they may show indifference or even animosity towards you.
Play until the end. Anticipate and plan – goals, objectives, and targeted outcomes are everything. Keep the goal in mind at all times and have a solid vision of how to accomplish it, including a contingency plan. You must also maintain stamina to keep moving forward when the circumstances feel overwhelming.
Again, these tools and techniques are not meant to imply manipulation, but rather, to equip high-skill, high-will workers to have a positive impact on colleagues, management, and the workplace. These methods can be incredibly powerful and are about making good professionals better – not bad people good. Before disengaging or leaving you should pursue these tools and techniques.
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