Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Office Politics => The Power of Propinquity

One of my clients was wondering what kind of an “in” a colleague had to be promoted to a position that another well-liked, capable person had been removed from involuntarily.

I asked about his closeness with the hiring manager. “Yes, he traveled with her frequently, and their offices were in the same location”, she said. “Now that I think back on it, he spent a lot of time with her, and the guy who “resigned” was in an office a thousand miles away.”

You can’t underestimate the power of propinquity, or just plain nearness. When you are physically in the same place as someone else, you are on their mind as well as in their eyesight. “Out of sight, out of mind” is an old adage that speaks to this phenomenon clearly. Relationships tend to be formed with those who have high propinquity.

Telecommuting and remote teams are common, so communication is even more important. But even having an office just down the hall can be as distant as being a thousand miles away if you don’t make an effort to communicate often. Make sure your communications are to the point, appropriate and relevant, but do communicate – via phone, email, text, IM, webcam, if not in person. Make sure senior management knows you are available, and communication is open, often, and easy.

Do you have to golf with the CEO or drink with the boss? Although one of my fondest memories of a past CEO is watching him and a colleague singing to each other “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” in a Tokyo karaoke bar, such behavior is manipulative unless you really do enjoy it. And false, manipulative behavior can be seen through. But engaging in off-hours activities together is how relationships can be strengthened. And good relationships are at the heart of success in business and life. Propinquity makes it easier for you to build a good relationship.

The bottom line: let senior management ‘see’ you on a daily basis, and ensure they are aware of what you know and do. Get to know them well, and build a solid, trusting relationship.

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