Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer doesn’t tiptoe around the subject of power. It’s “the lifeblood of business,” he says in a new video, and even if it makes some people uncomfortable, it’s a vital part of workplace interactions.
In a terrific Daily Muse post titled “5 Ways to Gain Power at Work Without Making Enemies,” Jessica Stillman of Inc. summarizes some key points from Pfeffer’s video. They’re “not necessarily universally palatable,” as she says, but by and large, the takeaway from the lecture is that the act of gaining power isn’t sneaky and underhanded — it’s essential.
The first tip is to “build a power map,” which means sitting down and figuring out who, exactly, at your company is wearing the pants. The org chart will tell you it’s managers and supervisors, but as Pfeffer explains, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes, secretaries are the ones really pulling the strings.
Once you know who’s got the power, the next step is to ingratiate yourself to them and “ease their burden.” It’s here that Stillman sees the advice starting to get “Machiavellian,” since you’re helping out purely to forward your own aims, but it’s all part of the game. By “doing small tasks that make those individuals’ lives easier,” Pfeffer says, you’ll become more visible and increase your chances of getting what you want later on.
Another way to do this: “strengthen social connections.” Here, Stillman sees the potential for “grubby” behavior, but the fact is you need to network and spend quality time with the people who make the decisions. That leads to the next tip: “employ flattery.” A little buttering-up goes a long way, Pfeffer says, since higher-ups — like everybody else on the planet — generally respond well to those who make them feel good about themselves.
Lastly, Pfeffer suggests you “unearth underemployed resources” and use them to “to put yourself at the center of a series of relationships.” What does that mean? If there’s company money available for paying guest speakers or organizing group outings, take the initiative, grab that cash, and plan the next event that blows everyone’s socks off. Before long, you may be the person everyone is trying to brown-nose.