I won't compromise to get ahead


I am caught in a business that rewards and promotes individuals based on "competency". This normally would be a good thing if the "competence" was actually backed up with evidence.

Unfortunately it has been degraded into a situation that those with "a good story" to tell at interview or appraisal are rewarded either by promotion or financially, rather than evidence based on performance.

I have a level of honesty that I do not wish to compromise to get ahead. As such my senior management team are a classic example of the "Peter Principle" (i.e. In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to their own level of incompetence).

Decisions are made on emotion rather than factual evidence-based reasoning. In addition to this, my direct manager takes all positive and negative feedback personally.

My problem therefore is how do I and my colleagues who are equally like-minded deal with workplace situations and policies that compromise our integrity? I work in the Police Service.

Peter, Scotland

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Jo Causon's Answer:

The workplace is rapidly becoming an environment where how you communicate, promote, and identify the clear impact you have made is critical to your success. But that does not mean you have to compromise your integrity if you want to 'get ahead'. Far from it.

You should, of course, continue taking the honest approach to issues, but at the same time, think about how you engage with your colleagues.

Research conducted by the Chartered Management Institute and Warwick Business School recently revealed that success is increasingly being built on the art of alliance building and collaboration.

It is vital to hone these skills, ensuring you are able to work within the environment rather than, as seems to be the case, from the outside. Start by looking at your meeting techniques as you may find that adjusting your approach you gain more buy-in.

For example, do you approach conversations with a single-minded determination to achieve your aims or a willingness to reach a compromise? Are you prepared to listen and react to different situations? In other words, make sure you come across as a team player and that you have the organisation's interests at heart.

Much of the way you do this comes down to your ability to negotiate and communicate. You say that a "good story" is crucial for success, so you should ensure that you approach colleagues in a way that appeals to their style.

I am certainly not suggesting you embellish the facts, but perhaps you should consider discussing achievements by highlighting how your actions benefited the public image of the Force or how they helped meet an organisational goal? Ultimately these are two of the most crucial issues for an organisation in the public eye and your senior colleagues should be quick to recognise this.

In terms of negotiation, state your case clearly and logically without raising the issue of how others are treated. You need to develop your argument based on your own merits rather than the way others are treated. So have evidence of how your actions have helped targets be reached.

You should also ask questions to clarify what is expected of you in order to progress. Make sure this is recorded so you can have this information as a record of your achievements.

The need to talk, and relate to, people on a personal level is critical. No individual or organisation exists in a vacuum and the impact of their actions can be felt across a diverse set of stakeholders.

This means that political skills are not the 'dark art' that so many associate with them. Rather they are fast becoming a mainstream skill needed across all business sectors.

About our Expert

Jo Causon
Jo Causon

Jo Causon is director of public affairs at the London-based Chartered Management Institute, one of the UK's leading professional bodies for management.