Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is your admin getting in the way of your offer or a promotion?


In a recent conversation with a colleague from a Fortune 500 company, he reminded me of an important aspect of being successful in the workplace, as an intern or a newbie (even as someone with seniority) – the power of the administrative staff (more importantly, the power of their network).

He was talking about the interns in his group, mentioning one in specific who stood out. What made her stand out, you ask (or maybe you didn’t…) – Here is what came top of mind:
  • Proactive and exceeds expectations: thought about what do I need to be working on next, instead of waiting for her manager. Not only is she proactive, she also always does more than her work plan, whereas the other interns who aren’t as proactive have managers who wonder: “what the heck has he/she being doing all this time?
  • Produces high quality results: Well, this one is tough to define in such a short period of time. At the very least, she is asking good questions to encourage discussion and debate; putting these insights to use in her analysis; and expecting to show the results in just a few short weeks at the end of the summer.
Now, what is it is that made the other interns standout, in a not so positive way? It’s pretty simple, they were essentially doing the opposite of the ‘standout.’ In particular, they:
  • Do what is assigned: these are the interns (or employees) who do what their manager assigns, but not an ounce more (yes, you’re out there and you know who you are). What happens is that you do the activity, you have time leftover and don’t use it. The worst part of this is that you think that no one else notices it. Rest assured they do – and what's worse, you might be saying to yourself: “I did what was asked of me, what else do you expect?”
  • Not making connections: by sticking close to the other interns and avoiding interactions with the larger group and offering your assistance (even for those activities that may be “below” your position) you are building a reputation – especially if you are not that busy.
And who is it that notices this – well the list is long, and one of the most important is the administrative staff. They are likely to be some of the most well connected people across the organization and incredibly influential (for good or bad). In fact, it was an admin who shared that the "non-standout interns" were telling the "standout" that she didn't need to work that hard...

Interestingly enough, for as much as we teach in the MBA program about networking and building relationships, we find that many newly minted MBAs check that knowledge at the door. They tend to be the least well connected in terms of perception…

Have you seen this in your workplace? We'd love to hear about it!

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