This is the third post in my series on managing early careers.
The first post introduced the concept and complexities of what being an ‘early career professional’ means. The second post delved into what are the gaps that sometimes make its way into how early career professionals deal with the job at hand.
This post talks about ‘people’.
Talking about people management is as apparent as saying we live in a VUCA world. Sure it’s a framework or a thought or an advice but what in Christ’s name is one supposed to do when confronted with the challenge of actually having to deal with it.
Yet, navigating interpersonal relationships at work successfully is a key to do well in the first phase of your career and also the principal factor in being elevated to stage 2 (a significant leg up in terms of roles, opportunities or pay).
So, here are some thoughts on how to ‘people’ better at your job:
Managing People Never Gets Easier
The difference between managing people and managing work is that the latter eases off or morphs at points of time. People based situation only compound in complexity. Managing one boss is easier than managing multiple people in a team. Managing multiple people in a team and one boss is managing multiple managers managing multiple teams. You get the picture?
People in their early careers are prone to jumping ship due to people based complexities – sometime this is a great idea (if people around you are toxic or abusive) but sometime not so much (people are complacent or not helpful).
So, deep dive into the problems you face with people in your life and see if they can be:
(a) Ignored first
(b) Resolved with as little collateral damage to all parties involved
A lot of tension in early careers comes from thinking that you need to head butt with every problem you face with someone. You don’t.
People – Work – People
A lot of people are always on the fence about whether they should spend energies in building relationships or strengthening work. I read this somewhere online and think it actually works in practice.
You should try and do two of the below. People will in real life settings ignore a bit of people based problems if you deliver excellently within time or deliver with a manageable output within time or are tardy but liked/do your work well.
(a) Doing you work excellently
(b) Doing your work on time
(c) Being liked
Stellar professionals get all three right. There's a very interesting study HBR did. They found that managers perceive bullied or victimized employees to be culpable too.
Quite like school, in the corporate world too, the victim and the bully are expected to shake hands and the teacher (or manager in this case) tells both not to make mischief while only one party might be clearly to blame.
You can read the full article here.
There is mostly no middle of the road with networking. I have seen early carly professionals fall into two categories:
(a) Over-networkers: People who think that it will be a career-limiting move to disagree with their managers even once, people who rush to be the life of every office party, people who think that if inhaling smoke passively at chai-sutta breaks is the fastest way to success in the corporate world.
(b) Idealists: People who come on time, leave on time (or stay late). They think that their work will 'speak.' They also look down at over-networkers with disdain and think of them as sycophants.
So what category should you strive to be? This is a difficult question. Most of us have a natural inclination basis our personality types (extroverts leaning towards networking as a virtue of their nature) or situation (you work with a team of idealists or are in an operations heavy role reducing the time you have to network).
If you are looking at growing within the same organization, internal networking is key.
If you are looking at growing out of the organization or industry, external networking is key.
I will never say networking is not important and we should all hide our heads like ostriches in sand. There is a right and wrong way to network. But, network you must. We are a social species and opportunities gravitate to people you know are good before people who are just good.
Multiple Personalities Don't End Well
I have seen a lot of introverts put on a cloak of extroversion at work. I know that people feel compelled to say/behave in an order which makes complying with the work environment easier. People 'pretend' to be team players in team meetings and then decide that it is actually a tough act to follow in practice for them. People say they are driven and motivated but only perform with external motivation.
The first step to managing people is therefore, a certain self-awareness of who you are. You can't be patient with people if you are not a patient person. You can't be aggressive if you are not aggressive.
Do therefore take out time to introspect on:
(a) What your ambitions are
(b) What your challenges are
(c) What your working style is (and where you are going wrong)
(d) How you can get better at dealing with people (and we all need to continuously evolve for this)
Hope you enjoyed reading this series and as the first article said in this series said, "All your tomorrows begin today."
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