Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How To Master the Office Dragon

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him."
~ J. R. R. Tolkein (1892-1973), British author and philologist, The Hobbit

If you have to get things done in your office, (and why are you there if you don’t?) you have to take into account how to get what you need from those who may not want to give you the time of day. There may be those who don’t like you and/or your project, who are jealous of you, who don’t understand the importance of what you are doing, who are insecure, or who are just too busy to accommodate you. Your request for information or participation seems to be an opportunity for them to block your progress.

Like a dragon, they may choose to hoard valuable information and spend much of their time guarding precious resources and making sure others - like you - don’t get their hands on it.

Whatever the reason for their obstructionist behavior, it causes you stress, frustration and anger. How can you get what you want without going down that dark path?

It may be that you can’t avoid it altogether, but you can try. You can plan ahead. Know who is supportive and who isn’t, for whatever reason. The reason may not matter in the short run. What matters is getting your results in a timely and successful manner.

Time was when the only real performance expectation was “gets the results expected without generating a hostile environment.” That still is the bottom line. Here are some tactics that you can use to accomplish this when you have a dragon in your way:

1. Go around the dragon. Whenever possible, get what you need from friendly sources. Avoid rousing the dragon by cultivating alliances in other areas. However, if you choose to go over the dragon’s head, you may incite the ire of the dragon. Going around is good, going over is dangerous. Be very, very careful if you choose that route.

2. Feed and flatter the dragon. They may be feeling a little insecure about their work. Or, they could be one of those narcissistic dragons who only respond when it is all about them. Let them know what they do is noticed: “John is really taking a good look at the project you are doing…it’s possible that a bigger opportunity could result from your work.” Support their efforts and appreciate their ideas in public and they may start taking a second look at you and what you want. Because if you weren’t around, maybe they wouldn’t be getting any strokes or tidbits at all.

3. Offer the dragon a trade. Is there something the dragon wants from you? Maybe there is something you have that would benefit the dragon and they don’t even realize it. A morsel of information? A computer tip that helps them organize their files more efficiently? An introduction to another influential colleague? A good deal on a smart phone? Find out what they could use by asking or observing and offer a trade.

4. Distract the dragon. Perhaps the dragon can be tricked into giving you what you need with a little bit of distraction. Chat up the dragon about something of interest to him. How about those Rams? Love your car. Those shoes are fabulous. Where’d you find them? Once you’ve got the dragon in a good mood, ask for what you need. They will be in a more responsive frame of mind and more inclined to be accommodating. Just be sure you pick the right time to chat them up – don’t interrupt them when they are in the middle of their work flow.

Fighting, banishing, or slaying the dragon are only for extreme circumstances. We all wish the dragon would just disappear. But there will always be another dragon. Learn how to live with your dragon, work with your dragon, train your dragon. Become a dragon master and you will be the hero in your office.

Here are some dragon-training tips you may be able to adapt to your office dragon.

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