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Practice Safe Sects

Cult An acquaintance joined an online community a while back, hoping to accomplish some networking and build his relationships.  He followed all the rules of online etiquette, introducing himself, not being demanding up front, actively participating to get a foothold into the community.  Nothing.  He told me that after a few weeks, he's considering dropping his membership, as there is just too much of a clique going.

A former student took a job at a new company, and she was very eager to add value.  She volunteered for projects, attended meetings, and made herself available as a resource to various teams.  When her first review came around, she was surprised at the relatively low rating she received.  Evidently, she made herself too available, and her supervisor didn't like some of the teams and departments with whom she was associating.

In my last post, I raised the issue of guarding your alliances and ensuring you're wearing the right "team colors" at the right time.  Many of us go into a new employer or enter uncharted territory without assessing the social landscape first.  While I firmly believe that cliques are best left for junior high children who want to belong to something merely to feel better about themselves, I also recognize that some people never grow up.  Hence, "red rovering" yourself on over to the best alliances is a good skill to have.  As long as there are people in the workplace, there will always be silos, cliques, turf wars, and alliances.  As a new person coming into the workplace, how can you tell if you are siding with the right people?

Lion_roar It's simple:  ROAR.

No, no, no, I'm not suggesting you belt out a primal screech as a sort of professional mating call, gathering like-minded individuals to your side.  I'm suggesting that you assess your alliances that you make with the acronym ROAR:

Reciprocal - it only takes watching a couple of episodes of Survivor or The Apprentice to understand the basic premise of alliance-building:  both parties have to benefit.  If the allies you've chosen are only take-take-take, it may be time to choose other allies.  Drew McLellan is one of the most at-your-service guys I've ever met.  He's always there to give people a leg up, and he sets the bar very high for an example of the type of person I want on my team.

Open - a few months ago, I talked about organizations that put the CULT in culture.  If the communication and relationships are based on secrecy and "mutually assured destruction," it's a sure sign that the alliance will eventually implode.  For a good read on open communication, check out Jane Greer's blog.

Accomplishment-Oriented - My core value is still about accomplishment.  If the purpose of the alliance is anything other than to accomplish something great for the organization (i.e., just water-cooler gossip), then it is probably not the best alliance in which to participate.

Respectful - If your newly chosen allies talk down to people, if they are rude, if they are two-faced, or if they are not genuine, RUN.  Run, Forest, Run!!  The online community requires a level of trust.  I was very pleased to see Linda Kaplan Thaler (one of my new colleagues of Office-Politics.com) highlight efforts to promote a code of conduct for web interactions.

It's not too complex, but it's of a higher order than most junior high children can conceptualize (whether they are in a junior high school or wearing suits and invading our corporate offices).  So... next time you have to determine which sandbox is safest, just ROAR.

Flickr Illustration by Mario Zucco Illustration; Photo By Moon Fleet


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Drew McLellan

Wow. That's about the nicest thing anyone has said about me in awhile. Thank you.

What a cool surprise. I was here on your blog, because I'm telling a guy you'd be a great speaker (watch for an e-mail from me) and not only do I get the info I need for him -- but read a compliment like that.

As you know, it's pleasure to help. However I can.

Thanks again. You made my day!


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