When you’re moving to a new job, one of the most important things to consider is the workplace dynamics of the business.

An effective onboarding process should equip you with an understanding of the culture, the processes and what’s expected of your particular role to ease you in. But what about the people who’ll be working around you?

There’s a certain amount of reading between the lines that needs to be done to discover where the power and influence lie before you can use that knowledge to your advantage and ultimately to the advantage of your employer. Your success becomes their success.

Like an unwritten rulebook, workplace dynamics determine how a team engages and interacts. The people with true power are usually the ones who can get things done. It’s not always as straightforward as you might think to identify and navigate the hidden networks within a business which actually make things happen.

So, what should you be doing and looking out for?

Don’t make assumptions based on titles
Senior roles will usually come with a title which implies that’s where the power lies but that’s not always the case. Those who are lower in the hierarchy, the people who are delegated to because of their abilities and efficiencies, could be the ones pulling the strings. Observe or just ask colleagues who they turn to for help. They are the ones to build bridges with because they will most likely be in a position to make your work life easier – or harder.

The influence can shift around
Workplace dynamics, as the name suggests, are constantly changing. The influence of a role or even an entire department can be positively or adversely affected by changes within the business or the wider industry. If focus suddenly falls on a particular aspect of an operation for whatever reason – as it did with companies’ ability to adapt their practices during Covid – then that area can suddenly find itself rocketing in status.

Look for rivalries – then be the diplomat!
Every workplace is populated with potential allies and potential adversaries, such is the reality of office politics. It’s useful to have a grasp on who is aligned to who, but then the wisest course of action is to try and remain neutral. Be diplomatic because you don’t want to end up as collateral damage in someone else’s conflict. Listen to different opinions and ideas but focus on your own strengths and avoid getting distracted by being dragged onto a particular side.

Listen, learn … and subtly network
Much of your ability to make the dynamics go in your favour will depend on how you present yourself to gain respect and extend your sphere of influence. Demonstrate a genuine desire to learn and an enthusiasm to contribute to the success of your team and the business as a whole. Don’t be pushy or too blatant, but if you’re respectful, positive and engaged you’ll make the right connections to showcase your value. Likeability goes a long way.

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