Fake It Until You Make It? Another Look

Janine wrote in recently concerning my previous article on “faking it until you make it.” She says I have it all wrong:

The idea of “faking it until you make it,” as I’ve understood it, doesn’t mean turning in bad work in the workplace. It means giving off the constant appearance of success and of upward mobility at work, even if you haven’t earned a high-ranking spot yet. Look like the company president and act like the company president even though you aren’t there yet.

I’ve worked with people who have used this approach for success in the workplace, with varying degrees of success. They’ve come to work dressed like the boss and spend a lot of time “networking” with as many coworkers as possible, preferably ones that are above them in rank.

Sometimes, that’s worked well for them. Other times, it hasn’t. In my experience, four things have separated the winners from the losers in the game of “faking it until you make it.” (I’m excluding signs of a troubled workplace where brown-nosing and office politics rule more than making a good product, which usually means that employment is going to be tentative anyway over the long haul.)

Are You Producing Valuable Work?
I’ve found that two types of people come to work dressed like the boss. Some of them are there mostly to network and their eyes are completely focused on moving upward. Others are focused on doing the best job possible and usually do so by becoming the “workroom leader,” drawing people in and setting a standard for high work quality.

It’s the second type of person that usually sticks around.

That type of person gets to know everyone in the workplace, but that person figures out what everyone is actually skilled at and gets them to bring that skill to the table as much as possible. If someone says to you, “You’re very good at this. I’m very good at that. Joe over there is very good at that other thing. Let’s all work together and make a great thing by using our skills,” then they proceed to be a big part of knocking out a great result, then they’re the type of person to have around.

They’re the type of person that gets raises and gets promotions, too.

In other words, if you’re the guy who spends all of his time in the coffee room, people eventually begin to notice that you’re always in the coffee room and not working.

Do You Relate to Peers and Superiors?
The key thing to remember here is that, if you get promoted, you’re going to need a great relationship with the people you’re working with right now. In fact, it’ll be essential.

The best thing you can do is to treat everyone well, from the president down to the part-time custodial staff. Get to know as many people as you can at all levels as long as it doesn’t interfere with your actual work output and treat them all well.

The people I’ve seen that rise to the top quickly pretty much avoid talking behind the backs of others. They won’t repeat the things they’ve heard, but you don’t hear them talking negative about others very much.

Do You Step Up to Challenges?
If there’s a difficult task to be done and no one is raising their hand, the person that does raise their hand often gets particular attention from the people up the food chain, particularly when that person succeeds in that challenge.

Don’t back away from challenges. Embrace them, even if they scare you to death. If you’ve built good relationships with other people, you can get help from them if needed.

Do You Give Tons of Credit?
Whenever you achieve something, give tons and tons of credit to the people that helped you achieve it. There is no reason to pat yourself on the back because others can see that you’ve pulled it off.

Not only does giving credit to others make the others you gave credit to feel great (and also likely secures their job a little), it also makes you appear humble and a team player, which you should be.

The best leaders I’ve ever seen took no credit for themselves, but it was in taking no credit that they built up a ton of respect from others.

To put it simply, the secret to “faking it” is to not fake it at all. You can shine up all of the superficial things that you want, but in a healthy workplace, the people that do good work and connect well are the ones that rise.

There’s nothing wrong with dressing quite well. There’s nothing wrong with taking a company-wide approach to things in discussions. Both of those are perfectly good traits to have. However, the people that “make” it have substance behind the style (again, in a healthy workplace, that’s true).

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