Why it’s important to have your colleagues’ backs
They’re rivals in the morning, but allies at the end of the day.
Though CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King works on a competing network to Megyn Kelly, she’s still got The TODAY Show anchor’s back.
At a recent event in New York, King said about Kelly’s new 9 am broadcast: “They’re still figuring it out, and it’s very rare that you put something on the air and it works instantly… I also think she has a lot of haters, and you have to figure out who you are and do the job that you want to do, stick to the core of what you believe, and either it will work or it won’t. But I do think there are a lot of people who aren’t wishing her well, and I don’t necessarily think that’s fair or right.”
She’s not alone in defending a potential rival. Selena Gomez clapped back at Taylor Swift haters as her feud with Kanye West heated up last summer and many pegged Swift as a liar. “There are more important things to talk about…” Gomez wrote in a tweet. “Why can’t people use their voice for something that f–king matters?”
And, in September 2016, when then-Republican nominee Donald Trump publicly lambasted his longtime foe Rosie O’Donnell, Madonna took it personally. “Mess with my girl Rosie and you’re messing with me!!! Cruelty never made a winner,” the “Vogue” singer shot back on Twitter.
— Madonna (@Madonna) September 27, 2016
“It’s [almost] always a good policy to support everyone, because at the end of the day, there’s lots of jobs out there, there’s lots of room for people to do those jobs, and you certainly don’t need to stab each other to get ahead,” says Debbie Searcy, a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s College for Business. Plus, Searcy adds, supporting one another — even a rival — can gain your boss’ respect.
Experts have a few tips on how best to back up colleagues when they need support on the job. Here’s what they have to say:
Stand up for the person — without also putting someone else down. Author and executive coach Marc Dorio remembers an instance in which he defended a coworker whom he felt had been unfairly lambasted by her boss, telling their manager: “I don’t know if you see everything this person does, but she really does work hard.” He explained: “I wasn’t putting my boss down; I was just saying, ‘Maybe you don’t see everything she does,” which called out the good in the coworker without offending anyone else.
Act fast: If you see a colleague in need of support in a meeting or other public setting, “do it in the moment,” Searcy advises — rather than waiting to discuss the matter with a smaller group later. Acting fast helps to “diffuse the situation,” rather than letting the incident fester.
Avoid intervening in routine matters: It’s helpful to intervene in a one-off situation when a coworker who can’t protect themselves really needs the backing, but if the issue at hand is about “routine, day-to-day operations,” your colleague needs to handle the dilemma him- or herself, Searcy admonishes.
The reason: Enabling a colleague to deal with most situations themselves teaches them how to survive in the tough working world. For example, if an editor tells a reporter in a newsroom that his or her story needs work, that’s not a situation worth intervening in, as that’s just the flow of the job and important that the reporter learns those skills. On the other hand, if the editor is berating that reporter for an error that wasn’t her fault, that might be worth intervening.
Protect people below you on the corporate ladder: While it’s easy to see why speaking well of your CEO or boss is savvy, it’s also “important to look out for people underneath you,” says Los Angeles-based executive producer Robin Weiner, a television industry vet who has managed teams of dozens of people.
“I think it’s an obligation for someone more experienced to look out for — and have the backs of — people on your team,” especially if you’re responsible for hiring them, Weiner says. This can help that person’s career — and help you gain allies in the process.
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