How to avoid making tenacious enemies at the place of work


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You may not always determine how people treat you but you sure can shape people’s thought patterns towards you. What that requires is consciously managing your own action and the contents of your discourse in relating with people. Often, this is what defines maturity – yes, the difference between being intentional with your behaviour and just merely living by impulse.

Somehow you may have noticed that it is what people see and hear that shape their reaction – positively or negatively – towards you. And you are going to need enough positive emotion (if you like call it sentiment) from all kinds of people to negotiate your way to the top of any corporate ladder. Why? Third-party opinions (i.e. jibes, comments and whispers by colleagues) make-up 60% of the criteria that determines if you are going to be promoted or not. That is why a lot of the time there are sentiments to satisfy to get ahead.

The work place can be likened to spectrum of galaxies. Securing oneself one of the few brighter spots will require tact. You see, there are too many interests and personalities represented in every organisation. Therefore learning to avoid stepping on toes can tip one forward for a better positioning, to grab first place when various financial and executive honours suddenly open up.

Note this. Emotional enemies don’t get easily pacified. Even when the wronged persona maintains a modest face, the feeling and memory are stacked in the air. They won’t be washed away by the rains, neither the dews, so soon.

However, the biggest tragedy is if someone you have wronged is going to be sitting around you, and must relate with you 8 hours, six days, every week, all year round. That way it would feel like you just set up a tent in hell and camp alongside buck toothed species that won’t ease their gaping.

Seriously making unnecessary enemies do breed blips, whispers or unapproved documents here and there that can end up knocking off a great career. Unfortunately that is the story when anyone has not mastered the games of navigating the work place successfully.

Now, weaving your way to the top at your place of work doesn’t mean you won’t step on toes or make enemies – since you are not ‘perfect Patricia’, a few of them is ok if justified. But making too many enemies could pull you down. It is like carrying too much baggage when hitch hiking. To help you, here are few tips to avoid such career errors:

  1. Avoid criticizing your colleagues in public – when you criticize a colleague in public, making yourself a judge in evaluating that colleague’s lifestyle, values, integrity, or intelligence, in the open, you are like a political candidate who just guffed a few days before an election. You do yourself a big harm. No one likes to lose face or have their self image (pride) held up to a public mirror. You may be right; yet having hurt your colleague’s pride, you will set up resentment towards your person. That won’t augur well the day you need their corporation, collaboration or endorsements. At such time, even if you do get something from them, it won’t be their best! So it’s better to keep shut or do your criticism one-to-one.
  2. If you have to dismiss someone’s idea, please do it courteously – In case you notice a flaw in your colleague’s idea during a brainstorming session or in a strategy document he or she submitted, don’t go out-rightly dismissing their ideas. Make remarks first about what is good about the idea before using terms such as “I may be seeing things from a different angle, don’t you think we you should consider…”. By first giving credit for the remarkable work done by that colleague and later saying that your view is just from a different angle, you have courteously helped your colleague see the weakness of his or her idea and do a rework or accept your suggestion.
  3. For whatever it is worth, never usurp the authority of your superior – There are times when your immediate superior may be out of line; meanwhile you don’t have to step above them to report them to higher authority or show that you can play their roles better. If this happens, except one of you leaves that organisation, you have just drawn a battle line. In the end, because of the huge resources in favour of your superior, you may end up the loser even if your actions are justified.
  4. Learn to collaborate – Don’t make it seem as if you are in competition with everyone. Tap the brains of others in your organisation even if you know the solutions already. Ask questions, help and throw up issues for discussion on your project as often as possible. By doing that you make your colleagues your team members rather than stiff competitors in your unbound ambition. Sometimes, the good ones would be happy to identify with your success. In case you like to know, that is why politicians hold ‘Town Hall Meetings’ to give a feeling of belonging and importance to potential voters. They often get those votes anyway.
  5. Embrace gratitude – For anything, even a little joke that someone cracked that brightens your day in the office, remember to send a ‘thank you’ text later in the day; or walk by their desk to show your appreciation. You will be hard to hate, dismissed or pull down, by living that way.
  6. Remember people’s names – Agreed not everyone is good at this. But it pays to work at it. In the movies ‘Invictus’, American actor, Morgan Freeman, acting as Nelson Mandela had to learn the names of every member of the South African rugby team before the 1995 World Cup final in Durban. Meeting them one-to-one and calling each by name inspired the team. At the final, it was as if New Zealand were playing against an SA Rugby Team that had springs and extra sheet under their arms. Knowing and always referring to people by their names induces affection. Remember, it’s often said that one’s name is the biggest personal treasure.

In sum, applying these tact behaviours will require efforts. This has to be learned. Success doesn’t run on impulse. It is earned, and most often through intentional, consistent behaviour.

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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