By Linda Formichelli
You took the all the right classes; maybe you even have an advanced degree. But did you remember to take Psych 101? No matter how stellar your resume is, psychology skills can make or break your success on the job. Check out a few of these refresher courses to help you get ahead in the workplace.
Psych Lesson 1: Group Dynamics
According to Greg Stewart, co-author of Team Work and Group Dynamics, unique work teams follow an overall pattern of development. Learn this pattern to better make your mark in the team setting.
- Forming: When you first come together as a team, expect apprehension among team members. People may be reluctant to speak up.
- Storming: Expect disagreements about roles and procedures to surface. Focus on arguing about work issues instead of individual personalities.
- Norming: Team members come together and feel a sense of belonging. This is the time to develop informal rules about how to proceed.
- Performing: Members work together to accomplish their objectives. Teams that maintain this phase over an extended period become exceptional.
- Adjourning: When the team breaks up, some members may feel a sense of loss. Hold a final meeting to review the team’s accomplishments and help members look to the future.
Psych Lesson 2: Office Politics
Think you don’t need to play the office politics game? Think again, says Karen Ginsburg Wood, author of Don’t Sabotage Your Success! Make Office Politics Work. "Office politics is a simple dynamic," she claims. "By not acknowledging that different people must be treated differently, a person sabotages their ability to build strong relationships."
Different interests, visions, goals, personalities, and egos can complicate any environment.
And you should always try to make the boss look good. "If you focus on making your boss successful, your boss will take care to make you successful," says Wood. "People surround themselves with people that they know they can trust and who will be loyal to their vision."
According to Enlightened Office Politics by Michael and Deborah Dobson, a major factor in office politics is scarcity of resources. Whenever you get something–money, time, assistance–someone else is not getting that resource. Another factor behind office politics is the clash of individual motives. Different interests, visions, goals, personalities, and egos can complicate any environment.
Psych Lesson 3: Communication Skills
Do the eyes of clients and co-workers glaze over when you talk to them? Maybe you need to brush up on your communication skills.
According to Rodney Lowman, dean of the College of Organizational Studies and professor at Alliant International University in San Diego, employees make many common communication mistakes.
- Not being prepared with the facts.
- Responding to people on the basis of what you think they want to hear, rather than the situation at hand.
- Dancing around issues rather than dealing with them directly.
- Focusing on peoples’ reactions rather than the facts and the situation at hand.
Psych Lesson 4: Difficult People
Think you can just avoid that office grouch? Not so. "You are hired to perform specific actions. Typically those actions cannot be produced without the assistance of others," says Sandra Crowe, author of Since Strangling Isn’t an Option. "If your relationships don’t work, then, chances are, your job won’t either."
Consider Crowe’s top three tips for dealing with workplace pests:
- For every action there is a reaction. Watch yours carefully.
- The stronger of two emotions dominates. Make your emotion stronger and more positive than that of a difficult co-worker.
- Don’t concentrate on placing blame; be solution-oriented instead.
Psych Lesson 5: Personality Typing
Finally, if you want to better understand your co-workers, do a little research. Check out the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and other credible personality assessment tests. Being able to "type" the people in your workplace will help you know how to deal with them.
Linda Formichelli writes from the comfort of her Massachusetts home with her husband, who’s also a writer, and two giant cats. Her work has been published in more than 70 magazines, including Woman’s Day, Redbook, Walking, Writer’s Digest, and Business Start-Ups.