I spoke with a client a couple of weeks ago who is experiencing workplace challenges. After discussing her communication style, when/how to use her voice, etc. I suggested she consider “The Little Black Book of Success: Laws of Leadership for Black Women”. While reading about “the game” aka an organization’s culture, I thought about the infinite times I’ve said “I don’t play office politics.” Well, I was wrong; I probably should have played…and played to win! While I don’t recommend abandoning your values, creating casualties as you climb the ladder of success or compromising your integrity, I am suggesting you assess not only how you show up, but how you’re navigating organizational culture.
This one sentence from the book confirms the fact that I probably endured self-imposed limits throughout my career: “Whether you know it or not, once you’re in the workforce you’re already in the game so you might as well play your “A” game.” I’ve spent more than 50% of my life working yet I made a conscious decision to sell myself short and “sit this one out.” Did I experience growth during my career? Yes. Was I promoted? Yes. Could I have achieved more? ABSOLUTELY!
Just know if you’re seeking leadership roles or interested in advancing your career as an individual contributor:
“To refuse to play the game would be a big mistake and automatically disqualify you from participating in the leadership arena.”
- Understanding the rules of engagement. Your workplace has rules – unwritten rules (aka “invisible rules”) and written rules. Familiarize yourself with both so you can not only navigate company culture, but so you’ll simultaneously create wins for both you and the organization.
- Using your voice. I’m a “fly under the radar” kinda girl; an introvert in all honesty. However, I understand the importance of leading in the space I’m in, with or without direct reports. Therefore I’m selective and strategic when it comes to the spotlight but I will not be silenced. I confidently communicate value; ask questions for clarity and leverage my strengths appropriately.
- Performing exceptionally well. “I just come in, do my job and go home.” This is the default for those who aren’t in the right role, who aren’t committed to growing with the organization or who simply don’t care. If you’re ready to move on, make adjustments and plan your exit but don’t suffer 40+ hours/week and/or cause those around you to suffer. In addition, you’re always being observed. With this in mind, do your job to the best of your ability and position yourself for success.
- Commitment to learning, being open to innovation and embracing change. Perfect jobs and perfect employers don’t exist because the world is full of imperfect people. This is where emotional intelligence will make or break you. Be savvy enough to identify and manage your emotions while understanding the emotions of others to achieve your goal(s). Flexible, agile employees tend to go the distance and can sustain themselves long-term while the game is in play.
- Controlling what you can control. How many rounds are you willing to fight regarding things you have zero control over? What else could you do with that time, energy and mental frustration? In the wonderful world of work, you have to be so self-aware that on any given day, you can incorporate boundaries without sacrificing yourself in the process.
- Creating a personal mission and vision that includes your values. You will be tested if you haven’t been already. Establishing a moral compass as well as your non-negotiables will guide your decisions when challenges arise.
- Leveraging your personal power. You’re skilled, talented, gifted and valuable. Channeling your power to influence and positively impact your environment will do wonders for your brand/reputation so lead where you are.
Remember, playing the game doesn’t have to be a winner take all. You don’t have to lose your authenticity, integrity or compromise who you are in the workplace. You simply need to understand the rules of the game, apply them and create a win for you as well as the organization.
Ericka Spradley, President of My Next Level ensures ambitious professionals and students get hired. As a Career Coach, Adjunct Professor and Author (“30 Min. Career Coach: Interview Basics for High School Students”, “7 Days to Confident Interviews”), she empowers others to take their interviewing skills to the next level so they can ultimately secure employment. Ericka also provides career support/guidance for clients when she’s not working tirelessly to change the career readiness conversation and course curriculums to include interviewing skills. To download your complimentary copy of “5 Simple Strategies to Land Your Ideal Job” click here