Sunday, 21 February 2016

You Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

There's no shortage of internet articles and books about toxic workplaces, toxic co-workers and how to avid them. But I rarely see articles about the best people to work with, so I've put together my own set of stereotypes of the best sorts of people to have around you in the office. If you can't choose your work colleagues, and you know the types of people to avoid, this guide will help you gravitate towards the folk who might make your working day that little bit more bearable.

The Realistic Optimist

The Realistic Optimist is an ideal change agent. Unlike the perpetual pessimist who argues against change and only sees the negatives (usually before even knowing what is changing), the Realistic Optimist understands the arguments from both sides, and generally accepts that things are going to change regardless, so the best thing to do is make the most of the opportunity. At the same time, the Realistic Optimist is quite happy to argue their corner with management - they aren't going to roll over backwards and let management walk over them. The grass most certainly isn't always greener in their eyes, but it is still green and grass and not a car park.

You need to look after the Realistic Optimist. It's hard work trying to see the best in everything, and when they fail they will come back down to earth with an almighty bump.

The Go-To-Guy 

There are always some people who seem to know everything (whilst actually knowing very little that is correct and even less that adds value). To counter these toxic individuals who just like the sound of their own voice, seek out the Go-To-Guy. The Go-To-Guy is the person who just knows stuff without making a big deal out of it. They've probably been around for a while and have been in a number of different roles - maybe some very senior roles - and have large networks and understand how things get done.

The Go-To-Guy might not have all the answers, but knows the right person to talk to. The are typically affable, entertaining and self-effacing people who genuinely like to help, and see others thrive in the workplace. They don't need bragging rights and they left their egos behind them a long time ago.

On the downside, the Go-To-Guy may be a little bit of a 'company guy', and may be just a little hung up over compliance for the sake of it, or even just a little too attached to the status quo. Which after all is what he knows best!

The Beamer

The Beamer is just that person who is always smiling. The person who laughs at all the right jokes (at the right time and in the right places). They are probably quite quiet, diligent and just get on with their work, but their bonhomie is infectious with being tiring. Every office or team needs a beamer!

The Influential Unleader

The Influential Unleader is the person who always steps up when needed. Voids are usually uncomfortable, and the Influential Unleader sees to it that voids get filled. When management asks for a volunteer it's the Influential Unleader who takes the job on, or is volunteered by their colleagues. They don't need to prove themselves - they've already earned the respect of their peers. They take things on from a sense of duty, and probably to stop an alternative solution being thrust on them and their colleagues.

They are unleaders because they don't have formal leadership roles, and they don't act as despots or dictators in their leadership style. People look up to them, and know that they are in good hands.

Influential Unleaders will never make it to the top levels of the organisation, and even though this is often through choice, they will eventually become disillusioned and move on as they see under-performers and less able people take over the key positions.

The Spokesperson

The Spokesperson is similar to the Influential Unleader (they may be the same person in a small group). They will fill a void of silence, but probably don't have the confidence to take the next step and actually perform the leadership role. But they are incredibly articulate, passionate and have the best interests of the team at heart.

When the Spokesperson starts a challenge with "I think I speak for the rest of the team when I say...", they usually do. They will be acutely aware of how the members of the team feel, and will not be scared of taking the flack for saying it out loud. But beware of the False Spokesperson who is only speaking for themselves, but hiding behind the team.

The Man For All Seasons

Clearly not an exclusively male role, but a Person For All Seasons or even (Wo)Man For All Seasons doesn't really work. The Man For All Seasons exhibits all the above traits. If you have one of these in your team it should let you off the hook as there will always be someone in your team that has your back.

But you still need to build your personal skills and aspire to become the Man of All Seasons yourself. When you find yourself in a new team without one, who are you going to call?

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