By Rebecca Koenig
U.S. News, September 19, 2018 —
To succeed in your career, you need to be on good terms with co-workers who have influence.
Recruit co-workers to your team.
Making friends in your office, while personally enjoyable, is optional. But to get ahead in your career, making allies at work is essential.
That doesn’t just mean getting on your boss’s good side. In fact, some of the most important people to recruit to your “team” are colleagues lower in the organizational hierarchy who nevertheless have important information about or wield influence within the company.
In the modern multigenerational office, it may take time and practice to learn how to work well with colleagues of all ages and all levels of responsibility. Read on to find out how to build strong alliances in the office.
How to be an ally in the office
Remember, nobody likes a suck up. Building alliances requires genuine interest in your co-workers’ responsibilities and challenges.
“When you become helpful and useful and valuable to people, that’s when you start forming those relationships,” says Bianca Jackson, a career branding consultant.
If you notice someone struggling with a work problem, ask if they’d be interested in your assistance and then do what you can to help them accomplish their goals. That will distinguish you as a “problem-solver” who others will come to rely on, Jackson says.
These are the six allies to make in your office:
They fix our computers, recover our passwords and keep our Wi-Fi running. That makes information technology professionals the “unsung heroes” of modern offices, says Amy Kardel, chair of the board of directors of the Computing Technology Industry Association.
Allying with IT experts is important because “we’re all being asked to do things better and faster, and IT is a lever to do that,” Kardel says. “Having the best tools and proactive ideas from your IT team can help you be a better worker.”
To be an ally to your colleagues in the IT department, remember that they are trying to enable you to meet your work goals. Share as much information as you can to help them troubleshoot technology problems, Kardel says.
And remember to thank them for their assistance, she suggests, because “your comments can be a valuable reminder that they’re making a difference.”
It’s easy to overlook the office receptionist as someone who simply orders food and schedules meetings. But “this is the person who interacts most with the higher-ups in the department,” Jackson says.
That gives administrative assistants access to important information. It also positions them to potentially influence powerful managers and executives.
For example, when Jackson was first interning for a company, she exchanged friendly greetings with the administrative assistant each day. That person endorsed Jackson when the vice president mentioned wanting to lay off the interns, and as a result, the company kept Jackson on staff.
It should come as no surprise that, “if you can, you want to make sure your boss likes you,” Jackson says. This person has a lot of power over whether you get a promotion or a raise and how pleasant your daily office environment is.
To please this potential ally, anticipate your boss’s needs rather than waiting for instructions, don’t raise complaints without offering solutions and pay attention to subtle communication clues she offers about what she wants, like coming by your desk to talk and using signal phrases such as “should” and “stretch opportunity.”
If you’ve failed to meet expectations, regain your boss’s trust by explaining how you’re going to improve in the future and then following through on your promises.
Sometimes your boss doesn’t have the power to help you advance in your company. In that case, Jackson says, “it’s good to get friendly with the people who know the most information and have the most influence.”
An influencer could be a vice president, senior manager or seasoned employee.
“It’s someone everyone respects, and as soon as they start talking, everyone is quiet,” Jackson says.
These co-workers often have high levels of responsibility and face a lot of pressure. Win them over by helping them succeed. Offer to pitch in on their projects and then exceed their expectations.
It may not seem worth your effort to get on good terms with the office intern. After all, she will only be around temporarily.
But that makes her a great person to add to your network. If you make her an ally, she’ll take her good impression of you to her next company, which could lead to future employment opportunities for you there.
Consider acting aas a mentor to office interns. Talk with them about their goals, invite them to shadow you as you do your work and encourage them to ask you questions when they need help.
It’s important to find your own mentor at work, too. This person will hopefully act as a confidant and guide as you navigate office politics and make career decisions.
To identify potential mentors, look for colleagues who have skills and responsibilities you want to acquire and whose job trajectories you admire. It’s important to pick someone trustworthy whose temperament is compatible with yours.
Be straightforward when you ask for their mentorship. If you’re nervous to make the request, remember that many people are flattered to be asked for their advice.
Rebecca Koenig is the careers reporter at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes feature stories about labor policy, workplace culture, employment data and career advice.