Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Sep 22, 2009

When there is a Coup d'├ętat

Change happens frequently, especially at large, political companies. Corporations are battlegrounds for power and control. Sooner or later there will be a coup, here's how to survive it.

The aftermath
When the announcement is made try to stay composed. Yes the change in leadership will likely mean a whole new set of priorities for you and your team, and much of what you were working on for the whole year will be wasted effort as the new leaders bring their own set of goals to accomplish, and there is a great deal of uncertainty in the organizational structure. Rather than complain and demand answers, take this time to assess, reflect, and plan your next move. Don't broadcast your disappointment, frustration and impatience. Stay focused on the customer/business and fill in any gaps that you see while the dust settles. Would you rather be seen kvetching by the water cooler, or seen as an asset who helped keep things moving in an uncertain time?

Which side you are on?
Are you on the side of the victor or the conquered? If it is easy to identify where you fall, you may need to work on being more adaptable and neutral. If you are on the winning side, don't gloat or take the opportunity to exact revenge on your enemies. If you are on the losing side work on repairing any strained work relationships, and demonstrate that you are ready to work as a team.

How to make it through the next one
Learn to spot the signs. A major shift in leadership doesn't typically happen when things are going well. When the economy is faltering, business is down, and promises are not being kept, the organization is primed for a coup. When it all shakes out there may be some layoffs, "promotions" (usually reserved for executives), and people who "decide to pursue other opportunities", and you may find you report up through a whole new structure in the organization. Make sure you keep it professional. Put your focus into doing your job well, becoming a subject matter expert, and helping others to do their jobs well too. Try to stay neutral in the game of politics, put the customer first and keep your focus in the job at hand. Take this shift in leadership as an opportunity to get your key projects on the agenda, to make the much needed process changes you've been pushing for, or to partner with the new leaders to make their goals a reality.

The goal of the new leadership is to make a significant and measurable difference in the organization. They want to prove that they deserved to win the battle, and that they are better than their predecessors. Once you understand this you will be able to look more objectively at your new circumstances and figure how you can fit in. You may even have a new boss, and you may not be as compatible with her/his work style. If you wait long enough the will be another coup before you know it.

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