Keep Your Mouth Shut in the Workplace Unless . . .

power structure

You Know It’s Something Someone Else was Already Agreeing On

Keep your mouth shut in the workplace unless you know that someone or everyone is in agreement.

Why?  Because if someone doesn’t like what you said, you’re in trouble.  No one may give you any indication whatsoever that you have made a “faux pas” but you’ll soon find out.

People who were once friendly will distance themselves from you.  Your supervisor may not be so receptive to your comments or suggestions any longer.  And, soon, you’ll feel like an outsider.  There will be nothing specific you can identify and no one will be willing to tell you what happened.

You have arrived to the workplace “purgatory” never to be released.

What to do? 

  • Stop offering anything – even personal advice to anyone.
  • Be nice – really nice to everyone.
  • Let the air cool off.
  • Do your work well and completely.
  • And, agree with everything or say nothing.  If you are pushed to agree, then nod.

Yes, you’re on trial – you’ve offended someone somehow. 

Will you recover your status?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  Depends on how offended the offended are.

At one meeting, we were told the purpose of the meeting was to explore new programming ideas.  Little did I know how “sensitive” one person was and I walked right into her bad books by suggesting an addition to one of the ideas she had expressed.  The air in the room got “very cold”.  I knew that the way she wanted to execute on the idea would have some serious ramifications but that didn’t matter at all.  What mattered was that she simply didn’t want anyone, for any reason, commenting on her ideas.

The next day, I asked another attendee what I had done.  He told me that she had been horribly upset by my suggestion.   You would say that she was very emotionally immature.  Yes, I would agree but she had the power to make my life difficult.  From that point on, when she was in a meeting, I said nothing.  If I had to visibly agree with her, I’d nod or raise my hand the same way as others did in order not to stand out.  Over time, the cold shoulder warmed up a bit but I was never, ever comfortable when this person was in the room.  I’d minimize the time I spent with her.  Though relations improved somewhat, the trust was gone.

How can you avoid this situation? take notes

  1. Ask questions and get to know what people believe especially those who have more power than you.  You need to know the people very well.  What do they think and feel about any particular subject in the workplace or even outside the workplace if the subject impacts your enterprise.
  2. Make notes in your Smartphone – do not ever write it in a book or on your computer at work.   This is top secret information in your arsenal.  Use code too in case someone is ever looking over your shoulder when you’re reading what you have recorded.
  3. Learn everything you can about designing strategies.  Strategies are all important.  Being a great strategist is helpful throughout life.
  4. And also learn all you can about working with the “powerful” successfully.  The workplace is never about the “know-how” you have but how you manage the people around you.  You were hired on what you knew and your knowledge and skills will grow as you gain experience.  Managing power and people are two entirely different abilities and skills you need to develop.  Psychology becomes very important.

Managing power and people without selling your soul are the critical skills for success.

Lorraine Arams
On Contract Only


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