‘My work should speak for itself’ – here’s why it doesn’t
I have had the opportunity to work with so many professionals who believe the phrase in the title, and they are right. Our work should speak for itself, and in a utopia it would; but in the real world only you can speak for you. Yes, I hate to break it to you, but real life just does not work that way.
Why not? Because life is driven by relationships. We have all seen it time and time again. The better person for the job is not necessarily promoted; the one who has a relationship with the decision maker is. The quiet people are overlooked although they may be the better producers.
I recently heard a tale of two administrative secretaries at an accounting firm. One was an average performer who did her work but did not interact much. The other was also an average performer, but she had great working relationships with the partners of the firm. When the firm decided to downsize, they deliberated on which one to let go. When the quieter one’s name was mentioned everyone said they didn’t really know her. They in turn found it easier to release her. The other was retained because of her relationships, even though she made a faux pas that year that cost the firm a chunk of money.
This is one of many stories and I am sure you have witnessed similar scenarios. They confirm the fact that relationships are what make the world go around. Developing genuine rapport with your colleagues and seniors can make a huge difference in the way you are perceived, and the way people treat you.
I remember working with a young guy who was excellent at his job, but he stayed in his office and only interacted with his staff. His seniors only knew him based on their exposure to him in the boardroom. They described him as a high performer, but said he was an enigma who did not possess the communication skills to advance. They picked the way he spoke apart. I soon understood it was because they did not know him. When people do not know you, you may be subject to harsher scrutiny. It is amazing how familiarity and likability will cover a multitude of sins.
This guy opted out of company social outings and parties. He said to me his work should speak for itself. He was right, and it did. It helped him to keep his job but did not advance him in the organization.
What am I saying? Exceptional work is not enough in most workplaces. Exceptional work plus great relationships are what drive opportunities and advancement.
It is important for people to see you as human; that helps to create connections. The lesson here is not to be a ‘kiss up’ or play politics, but to take a genuine interest in others.
If you have previously had bad experiences, you may have vowed to protect yourself at all costs, which is understandable. However, realize if you keep others at bay, that shield you are wearing may be repelling the very ones who could be your allies. Be careful you do not beat everyone with the same stick.
If you want to improve your public speaking skills in the workplace, send me an email for information on my upcoming workshop to help you star on the corporate stage.
• Kim Welcome is the CEO and founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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