paper-5I have a theory that many of us view the workplace from an egalitarian perspective – all are created equal and opportunities should be dished out fairly. We believe that if we perform really hard, put in the extra hours, meet company objectives and don’t make any waves, we should be rewarded with good raises, bonuses and promotions.

The reality of our capitalist society is that hard work is not the only contributor to success. Both politics and corporate allegiances play an equal—or sometimes more substantial—role in who moves up the proverbial corporate ladder.

We’ve all experienced this, right? Someone gets promoted because he/she is better friends with the decision-maker than the employee who should have earned the opportunity. The person most qualified was too meek or got lost in the shadows and never surfaced on the hiring manager’s radar.

Is there a way to work the system? Can we increase our odds of being noticed in a positive way when we feel so uncomfortable standing out? And can we do this without being labelled a “brown-noser” or someone who simply kisses-up?

I believe we can be bolder in the workplace by managing-up and contributing more effectively. It takes a level of social awareness to play in corporate politics. The following suggestions are based on what I have used successfully in my career.

Tips on Being Bolder in the Workplace:

  1. Remove obstacles from your boss’s path to success: Understand what keeps your manager up at night and what their manager expects of her or him. Do everything in your power to make your boss’s job easier and in turn, find ways to make them look good across the organization.
  2. Forward all emails of praise to your manager: Too often you aren’t comfortable bragging about yourself, when in fact if you don’t share these kudos, your boss may never know how you’re valued by others in the organization. It’s important for your manager to understand how well his or her department is perceived and exactly how you’ve contributed to that success.
  3. Befriend those above you: Make sure your boss’s boss knows who you are and how you contribute to the organization. If the culture supports it, try to create a casual relationship with this individual. Be sure to keep your manager in the loop though. You don’t want this budding friendship to inadvertently be perceived as an aggressive move.
  4. Contribute during meetings: Challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone and speak up about an idea that you’d like the team to mull over. Be sure your voice is heard.
  5. Manage your career path: Find time monthly/quarterly to visit with your manager over coffee or a meal—or, if you work remotely, via a phone call or Skype session—to discuss your career aspirations. Share what you like/don’t like about your role, and learn what opportunities there are that you could explore or create.

Cronyism and discrimination still exists and you’re not going to win over everyone. If you commit to making bold change, and to manage your career with intention and energy, you will be perceived in a new way.

Feel like you could use some support getting started or with developing scripts on how to do this with confidence and a spritz of humor? Reach out! All greyzone career-mentoring calls are recorded so you can replay the scripts and find language that’s comfortable for you to boldly manage your career.

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