You don’t have to look on the organizational chart or read job descriptions to find the power centers at work. Office and desk placement aren’t necessarily giveaways, either.
That’s because there’s all kinds of power in organizations, and those with official power, or power that comes from positions, aren’t necessarily the ones wielding the power that affects the daily life of a workplace.
It’s good to note these informal power centers, because these individuals can help you and you definitely don’t want to cross them.
Here are some tips to help you identify informal power players:
Whose desk do people always stop by?
It could be the secretary, the office manager, or even the fun guy from marketing. Watch and see if there’s someone almost no one passes by without exchanging a few words. That’s a power center there. You may think people are being polite or checking for messages. They’re also checking in, because this person has his or her finger on the pulse of the organization.
If you have a question, who do you go to?
It doesn’t matter if you’re asking about paychecks, vacation policy or new product lines – there’s someone you’re usually directed to, and it doesn’t have to be the boss. Once again, it could be the office manager or the boss’s secretary. This is the person who knows everything that’s going on in your office, and she or he needs to be treated with the utmost respect.
Who exudes quiet competence?
People who acquire power in organizations are good at what they do, and everyone trusts them to meet their responsibilities, which inspires confidence. But being able to keep one’s counsel inspires people to share confidences – which increases this individual’s knowledge – and power.
When they’re gone, it seems like the lights are a little dimmer. Once again, the vital cog doesn’t have to be the boss. Instead, when this person is gone on vacation or out sick, it’s hard not to notice the empty chair. People tend to skitter about the office like lost bumper cars with vague questions, like when the mail gets in, when the notices will go out and where the Xerox paper is. But what people are really looking for is an anchor, someone to tell them which end is up. That’s because this individual is the stabilizing agent who keeps the whole place running.
There are other tell-tale signs, of course. Noticing informal power centers at work will not only help you do your job, it will help you understand how your workplace functions – so you can build your own power center.
by Danielle Dresden