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Four Ways to Build Your Informal Power at Work

You know that executive assistant who keeps the bowls of candy by her desk and always engages passersby in friendly conversation? She just might have more informal power than the company bigwig who employs her.

So says Daniel Sorid in a recent New York Times article discussing power outside of the normal job hierarchy. Sorid is an MBA candidate at Columbia Business School, who learned about identifying informal power through Professor Eric Abrahamson's Power and Influence course.

Sorid discusses a few ways to procure informal power:

  • 1. Align your personality with the organization: Companies value employees who fit in with the company culture. They will be more likely to have their ideas heard and win respect from senior management, regardless of title.
  • 2. Know how to influence an outcome: If a decision is not yours to make, you can still fight for the results you desire. Sorid writes, "A savvy employee knows how to order, emphasize and withhold information when making a presentation. Some meeting organizers, for example, place controversial issues at the end of a long meeting, when everyone is too exhausted to put up a fight."
  • 3. Form alliances: "Whether between peers or a mentor and mentee, alliances involve an exchange of support or resources that can be banked, owed or redeemed," writes Sorid. Not surprisingly, employees with the most informal power have numerous allies throughout the organization, from interns on up to partners.
  • 4. Cultivate a reputation for power: While this doesn't mean bullying your employees, Sorid says it's important to create an impression that you're not afraid to use your authority. This wins respect not only from your employees, but from superiors as well.
All of this serves as a reminder that even when you've reached that big corner office, power within an organization is still a fluctuating thing. If you're not working on building your alliances and making your influence felt, you can be sure that others with eyes on your job are doing just that.

Candy image courtesy of Flickr user Don Nunn, CC 2.0