If you are working in an office environment, you will most likely agree that building a career is not just about expertise in your professional field. Personal and social skills increasingly weigh in.
We are working in teams and maintain sometimes virtual relationships with others across the pond. Additionally, various leadership styles influence the company culture differently.
We can all read about which leadership behaviours team members are looking for. When we building a career all we want is
– to be valued,
– have the opportunity to grow, and
– and to keep a healthy work-life balance.
According to a study involving 30 countries, the leadership practices of an effective leader include:
– Providing guidance and defining objectives
– Communicating the expectations often and with clarity
– Listening to ideas and new approaches
– Openness to change their minds
– Helping team members to grow
These leadership practices influence the areas, where leaders can fall short according to studies, including one summarised in the Harvard Business Review years ago. Such as not
– giving clear direction;
– securing time to meet employees;
– recognising progress and achievements, and taking credit for others’ work;
– offering constructive feedback or criticism.
Even though the study was concluded years ago, the progress has not much been visible in the recent years.
But how is this all related to building a career? Great question.
For one, you may also be a leader, perhaps in the near future.
The reason I decided to highlight these factors is that most of us start as team members and we develop our professional skills, meet the expectations of our leaders and do our work in the environment shaped by the leaders, too.
Being on the other end of
– the lacking attention, or
– slogan culture, or
– lack of follow through on commitments or promises is not a pleasant place to be. Also, it won’t help building a career in any industry.
However, understanding the potential reasons for such behaviours can help you help your leader and yourself to move your career forward. Knowing the reasons, you will be able to decide on and implement a corresponding action.
Lack of attention and listening
How lack of attention can block building a career?
– The boss doesn’t talk to you often, or not at all. Yes, it is true, there are managers out there who prefer emailing or instant messaging to their team members instead of talking to them, even on the phone.
– Your line manager sparingly shares information relevant to your work with you.
– The line manager does not listen to your opinion.
– You receive new tasks one after another, but there is no recognition of the results.
Potential reasons your boss acts like this.
– Your boss does not understand what information you need to know.
– The line manager struggles to handle the complexity or the office politics around them, become overwhelmed and spend most of their energy to keep afloat.
– They feel more secure making the decisions themselves.
What you can do
You cannot change the political games or the complexity when you are building a career, but can reduce it at your level. If your boss needs support and you have the information and insight, your boss is going to listen. All you have to do is to make it relatable for your manager.
Many line managers choose to avoid risks. That includes giving a chance to their team members in high visibility projects. Naturally, ambitious professionals are hungry for such projects.
Get involved in smaller projects and prove yourself in the field, show your capabilities gradually to your boss.
How do you know your boss has favourites?
– One or some of the colleagues at work are subject to little or no scrutiny for their low or lower performance.
– Your boss does not comment on the lack of adherence to the dress code, or if one team member is late from work repeatedly, while others receive feedback.
– The best projects go to the same person or people again and again.
– There is an open-door policy for some.
– Professional development or participation in networking events are exclusive to some.
Potential reasons for favouritism
– There is a well-oiled machine already in place, a smaller group of team members have been working in the company for long together, the boss has not adapted to the new situation and did not figure out how to involve the new ones yet.
– Or there is a friendship or family ties between the boss and the “favourite”.
– Company culture allows it.
What you can do
In case you work in a culture which tolerates, or even encourages favouritism, the best is to decide whether you want to accept it or you look for another job.
If you join a team where members formed close relationships, there is a chance for you to integrate. Such a team proved the members can relate to each other. Once you learn the rules of the team, you can choose how to align to those informal rules and with time you are going influence the rules, too.
Family ties are different and even though sometimes family members might agree with each other to show care and keep the peace, no business owner works against their business and no manager prefers solutions that do not help them achieve their goals, so you have a good chance to convince them about your ideas and work toward the position you aim for.
Favouritism is one of the frequent reasons talented professionals leave teams and companies.
But the situation is not hopeless. If you decided to join a company, you most likely did not plan for two months and wanted to add and get value out of your time there.
– Concentrate on your performance and development. Do not let favouritism have a negative impact on you. Behave normally.
– Communicate both your results and your ambitions to your boss. Define what you want to achieve, so it becomes clear to both you and your boss what you are aiming for and working toward. This way it will all be measurable, and commitments will also be clear from the beginning.
– Build relationships. Leave your bitterness out of the equation because results will serve you, if not in that specific team, in another. Every effort you make is for your own good and professional progress. Read more about why supportive relationships are enablers to a more successful life.
Working in a slogan culture
What is a slogan culture?
Managers are using slogans in their communications more often than you would think.
To ensure people align with the business strategy, organisations introduce phrases to represent core messages. Such phrases can become slogans.
Add to this the slogans coming from the management literature and you will understand how difficult it is for professionals to avoid speaking in slogans.
Slogan culture is a step beyond repeating messages that flow top-down in the company. It means the organisation tolerates people repeating popular buzzwords and the lack of performance or low performance. Living on slogans has another impact. As a new idea comes along, another slogan becomes popular. The organisation can end up changing projects regularly and confusing people.
Potential reasons behind a company supporting buzzwords and failing to concentrate on results
Initially, I must tell you that no business can survive on buzzwords.
Perhaps, particular teams or leaders tolerate one or more individuals to keep afloat parroting for a while, however such a behaviour has an expiry date. Falling numbers surface rapidly.
Slogan culture can find roots in a team because of leadership behaviours. As a root cause, there is potentially a disconnect between the company strategy and execution, or the company is not clear on the direction, or its place on the market.
What you can do
– Find the core message behind the buzzwords and act according to the spirit of the messages. There will be mentors who look for the performance.
– Be yourself and think about your long-term goals. You are not a leaf flying in either direction depending on the wind. Flexibility is important because there will be changing priorities. But a business’s direction does not change monthly. Look for the patterns.
– Buzzwords have a place in communications but not in the world of actions. Action means, there is a tangible outcome. Go for achieving results and making an impact.
– Remember, if your gut tells that you are a misfit, you are one for sure. Think about alternatives.
Failing to follow through
Lack of proof of performance
That becomes most visible. Lack of results or the outcome coming together slowly. You can also recognise there are many projects running parallel without even one showing results.
Team members talk a lot about such projects, one meeting follows another but there is no output. There is no measurement of the progress or definition of quality and expectations.
People do not feel inspired even though the atmosphere is pleasant.
You want to proceed but there is always another hoop to jump through. Decision making is slow. Even though slow decision making is not a direct cause of the lack of follow through, it can suggest people in the organisation struggle to take risks and responsibility. In such an environment, delayed tracking of progress appears more often.
Potential causes of not following through
– Lack of direction from the leadership and lack of attention to running the business overall.
– The business is performing really well because it has a superb product or service offering and operational problems are not efficiently handled because the focus is on sales.
– They do not motivate your line manager or the supervisory layer of the organisation to drive performance.
– Your manager, potentially most of the leaders are so overloaded with work, they cannot simply follow up on everything.
What you can do
– Concentrate on your performance, your deadlines, and your delivery. You work for your own progress and not to please your boss.
– If your boss is not motivated, find out how you can help them find that mojo again. Of course, it is not your responsibility to motivate your line manager, but helping them will help you, too. Also, think about your motivation, so you can avoid burnout.
– Find other mentors in the organisation and align yourself with high performers.
From the above you see, there is no limit to your progress when you building a career. Once you are clear on the problem, you can decide on the action and will find a solution. Show tenacity and you will succeed.
Click to read more about how women keep their career on track.