Preventing the Slide into the Out-Group
In the last post, we discussed whether you were being ousted from your work’s in-group. This post is about how to prevent the slide if you can.
Verifying your status
Before you panic, you need to confirm that you are actually on the way out.
Don’t talk to your boss.
I know it’s the most direct route—he’s the one who creates the in-group. But think a moment. Suppose you say: “Hey, boss, I would have liked a heads-up about the Merkling merger.” Will he say, “Yeah, I didn’t because you’re not my go-to guy anymore.”? More likely is an omg or an embarrassed and stumbling justification why you didn’t need to know. If you believe the omg, things go back to normal. If you don’t, all you’ve done is raise something most people like to keep underground. Not a good way to stay in.
Ask a trusted colleague?
You might have luck here, but the colleague has to be practically family. The colleague might be reluctant to pass on unpalatable news or risk her own standing if the boss finds out she has done so. Unless you’ve got a peer who you’d trust with your first-born, I’d give it a pass.
So often you only have your gut to rely on. Try to be objective. Bounce the signs you think you`ve picked up off a loved one or a friend outside work to see if they come to the same conclusion.
Trying to prevent the slide
Unfortunately, neither of these comes with an ironclad guarantee, but they can work.
Observe who are definitely in.
Are you doing or have you started doing something different from the in-group? Do you skip the TGIF in favor of a workout? Question whether you`ve stopped doing what is expected of an in-group member. If you can identify any things, decide whether returning to the old way is worth it or whether you’d rather stick with the new. Might be worth it, might not.
Do something extraordinary and relevant.
If you can do something impressive to the boss and the in-group, it often will be enough to remind them of your membership.
But what is impressive? Might be solving a seemingly unfixable problem, or bringing home the bacon on a Hail Mary pass (yes, I know I mixed metaphors. Oh, well). Whatever it is, it can`t be just a little more. Journeyman stuff won’t cut it—it has to dazzle a little and impress a good bit.
If you can do that, all will be forgiven, and nobody will even admit you were ever on the slide.
Is all this too paranoid?
You might understandably be thinking that I am advocating a paranoid, enemy-behind-every-bush approach to work. I`m really not. It would be counterproductive and not much fun if you had to weigh every word and action on this in-group scale. But if you notice a pattern, stop for a moment to consider whether it is one and whether to take action. It might not be and you might not need to. But don’t wait until you are on the outside looking in before paying attention.