Even in the best office environment, with the most approachable boss and the most amenable colleagues, there may be times when you need to resort to guerilla tactics to get things done. I don’t mean setting off stink bombs in the boardroom or staging a protest from your cubicle, but there are ways and means to bring the rest of the office round to your way of thinking. Here are ten of the best.
1. Know what you want
It’s all very well wanting to be taken more seriously and to have your proposals taken on board, but you need to have a firm set of goals. Before you ask for anything, be sure that you know precisely what it is you’re asking for. It does no good to stomp into your superior’s office only to fluff your lines and come across as not only petulant but scatterbrained.
2. Know your opposition
Everyone has a weakness. For some bosses, it’s a particular sandwich filling. I had one boss once who could be distracted for the entire afternoon by asking him about his weekend golf game. Once you know what the person you’re dealing with wants, you can exploit that to your advantage. Get them comfortable and relaxed and they will be more likely to look upon any of your requests favourably. Don’t use this one too often, however, as it loses its impact after the first couple of times.
3. Never be the aggressor
Something may be driving you and everyone else in the office crazy, but rather than strapping on your battle helmet and squeezing on your knuckle dusters, a better approach would be to become the peacemaker. If there is any conflict in the office, and you are able to act as a mediator, at a later date when you make suggestions they are more likely to be seen as solutions rather than strange notions, even if you are suggesting that dress-down Friday should be swimsuits-only.
4. Build up goodwill
It seems counterintuitive, but by doing your colleagues a favour every now and then, you can actually leverage them into doing what you want when it really matters. This is not to say that you should bend over to cater to their every whim, but make a note of when all the times you have got someone out of a jam, or covered for them when their “sick day” was really recovery from a hangover. They will owe you, and you can exploit that when push comes to shove.
5. Play to your strengths
While everyone hates the bore who spends their time quoting statistics at their workmates and detailing every single mistake you’ve made, there are also those who are quietly confident of their expertise and who are only too happy to share their knowledge without sneering. You want to be one of the latter. It goes back to the goodwill issue: by establishing yourself as the office specialist, you are more likely to be taken seriously when you put forward an idea.
6. Keep your cards close to your chest
You may have the best idea ever for helping the company achieve its targets for the year, but not everyone needs to agree with them. Rather than copying in the entire company, or even your entire division, in your emails about your audacious plan, keep your circle of influence to a few key individuals. People love secrets. The longer you can keep it between you and your inner circle, the longer you have to build it up from a vague notion to a super-secret magic bullet that only the “special ones” need to know about.
7. Don’t overegg the pudding
It might be tempting to exaggerate the efficiency gains or profits that you could bring in, if only your company would see the error of its ways. This is wrong. Should your firm take your suggested course of action and fail to meets its targets or, heaven forbid, actually suffer a loss, you will have forever lost all authority. Don’t lie to try to further your agenda; instead, simply emphasise the reasons why you are right.
8. Don’t be afraid to invoke the apocalypse
As I said, you don’t need to lie, but there is nothing wrong with highlighting all the pitfalls that could befall the company if your suggestions are not acted upon. If you have access to the relevant details, you could describe to your boss just why their bonus might be significantly lower, or to the rest of your team as to why one of them might be looking for a new job soon. You’re not threatening them, technically, but you are making them aware of the pitfalls that might occur. People tend to be more amenable when they realise that they have something at risk.
9. Build alliances
Although it can feel as though you’re the only person in the office who cares about what happens next, believe me, there is bound to be someone else who may not share all your views, but who agrees on at least a few issues. Regardless of your differences, there is strength in numbers, and teaming up with somebody else is more likely to get you taken seriously. Find an ally, make sure they’re on your side, and co-opt them to your cause. There is strength in numbers. The more of you there are, the less likely you are to seem like a lunatic.
10. Believe in yourself
Why should anyone you work in believe in your idea if you don’t believe in it yourself. There is no room for being half-hearted here; you need to know that the idea you have is not only the best one that has ever been presented to your company, and also that nobody else is equipped with the knowledge and skills to implement it. It’s all very well coming up with ideas, but if you don’t know how they might to be put into pratice, you may as well say nothing at all. If you have a coherent plan and strategy for how your ideas may work, not only will you be more explaining them to your superiors, but you also will not be overwhelmed if you get the green light to take them forward.
All of this may seem like common sense, or even a manipulative playbook for office relations, but sometimes you just have to play dirty. Not every office if perfect, and not every boss or manager is the best judge of character. In these troubled times, it’s important to know how to get ahead. A little psychological manipulatoin can go a long way.
[Image by SlushPup]