Getting into the In-group
Okay, you’ve decided that you want in. How? Working hard? Taking one for the team? If the world were fair, that would do it. But plenty of hard-working, dedicated, and decent guys are thanked for their contribution but never invited in. Hard work is a given. In-groupedness seems something else.
First, don’t make it obvious
Don’t look desperate to get in. Remember the cartoon with a big bulldog and a snappy, friendly puppy jumping around to get his attention? Didn’t work then and it won’t work for you. Due to human perverseness, wanting something nakedly makes you needy and not in-group material. Don’t talk about wanting in, or hang around the in-group hopefully, etc. Be cool while working what I outline below.
Upping the chances of getting in
These may sound phony, artificial, and even beneath you. They are. Problem is, they also work.
Dress like them
Not the flashy ties your boss wears, but you really should dress for the position you want. What’s the in-crowd wearing? If they’re a jeans and Ts crowd, great. But if they’re business casual or even suits, and you do jeans, it’ll be harder to see your potential for the in-group.
Act like them
Again, not the boss’ annoying laugh or his sidekick’s nervous tick. But things like working hours—are yours about the same as the in-group’s? I know it makes sense to come/go early to avoid traffic. But then you won’t be in the coffee line for that chance in-grouper conversation. Or shoot the shit (i.e. access to the boss’ thinking) at the end of the day with him and his inner circle.
Use the same vocabulary
Companies use certain words to reflect where they want to go (or at least say they do). Used to be quality, then teams, then lean and mean. Don’t be talking quality when the buzzwords now are good enough, buyer beware. If you do, you’re not in-group material. But if you believe passionately in quality (or whatever), it’s a hard switch. If so, read about whether it’s worth being in the in-group.
Do something really useful to the boss
What is valued by the boss? Often, it’s more personal than corporate. Could you take the blame for a mistake to save your boss’ face with his boss? Or introduce him to your Uncle Bob, an industry mover and shaker? Drum up some publicity (internally or externally) and insist your boss do the interview? Look for opportunities to help your boss’ status or promotability.
But even when/if she thanks you, remember cool. Throw it off without being flip. “Glad I could do it—the unit deserves more attention” or “It just occurred to me that you and Uncle Bob have a lot in common,” etc. But P.S., bringing his coffee doesn’t cut it. Puppy dog.
In all this, make haste slowly. For example, your wardrobe. Ts to a suit overnight will cause comment and give a puppy-dog air. Try for spiffier jeans and a shirt first, then maybe dress pants, and then a casual but well-cut jacket. Let the evolution of your sartorial and other worthwhile characteristics creep up until the boss realizes that you’re in-group material. Has to look like it’s his idea, not yours.
Another word about phoniness
Is this manipulative and even a bit underhanded? Guilty as charged. Even though I want you to be yourself at work. However, throughout the blog and in my books, I don’t assume that being yourself means fighting the undercurrent when everybody else is swimming. If the undercurrent’s going where you want to go and the adjustments needed don’t violate fundamental values, I’d say swim. If they do, you may need to swim to shore and climb out, even if this is a detrimental career move.