This is an ode to my corporate upbringing. I loved it. Because of my nearly ten years working in a corporate office, the topic of emotional intelligence in the workplace is definitely in my wheelhouse. Some of these principles I learned by simply growing up. Others I learned by getting laid off. Twice.
In a decade of working in an environment with rules and red tape, here are some of the principles I learned.
Respond don’t react. The difference between these two tactics is the difference between a leader and a boss. In a corporate office, there are so many passionate opinions and changing priorities. Reacting is the act of saying the first thing that pops into your head. Responding is the art of listening, empathizing, thinking, and then replying.
Lead from the middle. Just because you’re at the bottom of the org chart, doesn’t mean you don’t have influence. Speak up with your ideas, carry yourself with confidence, and don’t wear yoga pants on Fridays. Also, just because you consider yourself a leader, doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to learn. Balance.
Make friends and keep them. Those slightly awkward moments right before a meeting is about to start are the best times to break the ice with people from different departments. Come up with a go-to question that isn’t vague. Spark a conversation. Offer up a funny story. The friends I’ve made along the way have proved to be mega more meaningful than the projects I completed.
Don’t get too comfortable. A.) Don’t get in a rut with your work. Keep your mind open to doing things differently. B.) Know that you’re at the mercy of mergers, acquisitions, and all the things that make corporate corporate. This is where you’ll be thankful for those friends. After having been through two layoffs, I can spot an all-hands meeting from a mile away. You just never know what’s really going on at the company. So, keep yourself marketable.
It’s not an issue unless you make it one. This sounds basic, but it’s easier said than done. The epitome of corporate grace is to be stoic and calm, not dramatic and frenzied. When you turn minor inconveniences into major hurdles, instead of solutions, you’ll have a pile of issues on your plate. Sometimes this is about trusting that things will work themselves out on their own, which is usually the case.
Do what you say you’re going to do. If you were in charge of planning a high-profile event, who would you want on your committee? People who get stuff done! It’s one thing to work with people you like, but it’s a whole other ballgame to work with people you can trust. Be the committee member that follows through and communicates if they need help.
Trust your teammates. This can be counterintuitive for a lot of people, including me. When I want something done, I want it done a certain way. But that’s not always possible when you work with a team of people. When a team is united by a common vision, trust that you’ll get there together. If you’re the only one that takes a different route. That’s okay. If your teammate decides to take the most difficult route possible. Let them, so they can learn for next time.
A lot changed in that decade of working in a corporate office. Ironically enough, now as a wife, mom, and freelancer, the same principles apply. Want to learn more about my corporate copywriting work? Check out my portfolio, here.