I can’t help it if the leaders from various teams know me and like me. I make an effort to get along with their team members. I find that members of my immediate team resent the fact that other teams automatically assume me to be the representative of my team. What am I doing wrong? Is there a line one should not cross? How can I avoid this without harming my personal brand equity? How can you avoid the resentment of others as you become better known?
It’s the plight of friendly and extroverted professionals everywhere: People know you and like you. That might seem like a good thing—until you start to feel the resentment emanating from your colleagues. How come everyone in the company knows her? Why does she get all the credit? I do all the work, and she’s getting ahead by socializing!
Of course, this criticism is often unfair—people with lacklustre social skills feeling jealous of your networking prowess. But the reality is, if you want a positive work environment, you’ll have to find a way to win them over. Here are three ways to get your co-workers on your side—without going into hiding and forsaking all your contacts.
Win ‘em over: Be helpful, share credit for work and build a network.
• Share the credit: At the heart of your colleagues’ discomfort is the idea that you’re taking credit for their hard work. Eliminate this objection by making an effort to publicly praise your colleagues at every opportunity. You don’t have to go to the other extreme and self-deprecate (“Oh, I didn’t have anything to do with it—Mita did everything!”), but make sure everyone’s contribution is fairly noted (“I’m so glad you liked the report—and it wouldn’t have been possible without Anish’s amazing graphic design skills”).
• Broker connections:You’ve built a solid network at your company, and perhaps in your industry, by meeting people and making connections. Your co-workers may not understand how to do this, or they may feel intimidated at the thought of entering a crowded “networking event” where they may not know anyone. Disarm their criticism by inviting them along next time, and making it a point to introduce them around. Soon, they’ll begin to see your connections as a plus (“She can help me meet industry leaders”) rather than a minus.
• Help them get what they want:The cardinal rule of getting people to support you is to understand their self-interest, and help them get what they want. Perhaps one colleague is frustrated that the finance office takes so long in processing reimbursement requests—if you know someone in finance, maybe you can get them to help out. Maybe another co-worker has a son applying for college, and wants more information about various schools. If you’ve got a contact whose child just went through the process, perhaps you can link them up. And if another officemate is taking classes to burnish his foreign language skills, maybe you know a native speaker who’d be willing to practise with him. Your extensive network could be seen as a liability by people who are insecure—but it’s actually a strength, and if you can leverage it to help them with personal or professional matters they value, they’ll soon be in your corner.
The ability to build diverse networks is rare and valuable —don’t let anyone discourage you from doing it. With these three steps, you’ll soon make it clear that everyone benefits from your robust connections.
Have a question about your personal brand at the workplace? Dorie Clark, CEO of Clark Strategic Communications, Somerville, Massachusetts, US, and author of the forthcoming What’s Next?: The Art of Reinventing Your Personal Brand (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), will answer questions once a month.
Write to Dorie with your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org