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Do You Make or Marginalize Careers?

We’ve talked enough about the last cube on the left or your dream of a corner office. What hasn’t been reviewed is your responsibility, regardless of your stratum, to the guy or gal who has the hidden cube in the middle.

You’ve been around for a while. A new hire has taken the cube next to yours. What responsibility do you have to his professional development? To his achievements? To his security?

Will you be a part of making his career, or marginalizing it?

It is easy to marginalize someone, to erode his or her reputation. You see it done all the time. More damage is done to co-workers over a cup of coffee than anywhere else. You cannot control the “office gossip” who bad-mouths others, without the courage to directly confront the yacker’s negative commentary.

You can control the perception of this abhorrent behavior, though, in two ways. The easy way is to avoid gossip yourself. When others see you are not the type to titter in a group about an absent party, and that you personally frown upon it, that mature attitude will quietly resonate with the people who matter.

Second, the tricky part is being on good terms with everyone. It seems impossible, as there are natural and chemical reasons for not being attracted to people. If you can remain on even, friendly terms with all, you will be treated in the same fashion. You can’t control what others say about you in your absence, but you can always control what you say and do.

If you don’t actively marginalize others’ careers, then it is unlikely that someone will do it because of you.

Making someone’s career is far more taxing. At the center of this thinking is the axiom “you cannot control everything.” Ultimately you are not responsible for someone else’s success – he or she is. But by listening correctly in a non-judgmental respect, you can help the person who wants the help.

If a co-worker doesn’t want (or heed) advice, no matter how benign, don’t take it personally. The heck with ‘im. Move on.

If a subordinate doesn’t understand you aren’t asking anything, but that you are training and advising, then your private discussion needs more constructive elements. More teeth.

We all want to be the manager who makes careers for people, not the one who marginalized honest employees. It is always up to them to follow their own path, whether it’s the last cubicle on the left or the corner office. A wrecking ball can take down a building in minutes what it took a strong team years to build. Don’t be a wrecking ball.

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