Career Success Takes Savvy. | Decoding Workplace Behavior

We get disgusted, shake our heads, and feel like we’re being played. But we’re not exactly sure why or how. 

Things happen fast at work. Assignments come in droves, meetings fill our calendars, and coworkers/employees want answers. We sense there’s more going on than meets the eye with no time to figure it out. 

Stop. Look. Listen. 

Your career is you future, so you need to watch over it. Sure, there are plenty of people ready to help you. But there are also others who will gladly put their load on your back or position themselves to overshadow you. 

Sometimes these maneuvers are intentional but, most of the time, they aren’t.

No matter where they come from, you need to identify, define, and counteract them professionally. 

What’s really going on here? 

You need ask yourself this question continually as you move through your workday whether you’re a supervisor, manager, or individual contributor. 

When you get a clear picture of how the behaviors of your coworkers are affecting you and the workplace, then you will know what to do. 

Coworkers showcase lots of wonderful behaviors that can help you and your career. It’s the people who do things for self-serving reasons, things that negatively impact your career, who need to be understood and addressed. 

Consider these situations: 

1. You’re a supervisor with an employee who: 

  • Pesters you continuously for advancement, a different cubicle location, or a better productivity rating
  • Claims certain work isn’t his/her job and tries to delegate it up to you
  • Complains about everything from the temperature in the office to the computer software

 The motivation: I can get what I want because these tactics worked before with a previous supervisor, so they will work again now. 

Your action: Deliver a clear denial of the advancement request, a refusal to accept work delegated up, and an intervention to stop the complaining 

2. You have a coworker who always finds a way to be in the company of internal “movers and shakers.” When there’s a meeting or an event, s/he maneuvers to sit with or talk to them, so others don’t have access. 

The motivation: S/he believes that the appearance of an alliance with key people rubs off, increasing his/her influence and opportunity. 

Your action: Periodically, join in those conversations with leaders (yes, insert yourself!); build alliances of your own that are more subtle and have real substance. 

3. Your colleague asks excessive questions whether you’re together one-on-one or at a meeting. You have another colleague who constantly challenges the logic, viability, and relevance of every new idea or past practice. 

Their motivation: They know that one way to hide their lack of skills and knowledge is to defer action. So they use questions and challenges to appear smart and avoid committing to delivering results, sidestepping accountability. 

Your action: After the questions and/or challenges are presented, ask your colleague(s) to commit to a specific action and give them a time to present the results. Make your own commitment to act, leading by example. 

Build savvy using salve 

Even if your colleagues are pulling the wool over the boss’s eyes, they need to know it’s not working with you. 

Three things are important here: You need to: 

  • See what’s going on around you and how it is affecting your career
  • Counteract behaviors that can/may spill over to you in unwanted ways
  • Let people know that you see what they are doing and are ready to respond 

This isn’t done in a confrontational way. Subtle actions can be very powerful. 

When you’re savvy, you know how to prevent the wrong work from being dumped on you, to build appropriate alliances, and earn respect from your colleagues. 

Please take a minute and make a list of the people who make you shake your head. Then add your observations about their behaviors. Try your hand at tapping into their motivations and taking an action. Now watch your savvy grow.