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Are You In, or Out, of the Loop?

Even as kids we knew that information was power. We told secrets. I’ll tell him, but not her—that makes me powerful. As effective adults, we still want and, in fact, need to be in the information loop. Why? Because accurate, timely information enables us to:
  • Feel like valued members of our teams
  • Be excited about our roles and motivated to do great work
  • Make choices about our careers
  • Initiate actions that keep our own work on the cutting edge
  • Understand the culture and politics of our workplaces

Are you in the loop? Do you have the real story about what’s going on? In a perfect world, your manager and organization leaders would keep you in the know, especially during times of major change. But it’s not a perfect world—yet. For many reasons, you may not be getting the information you need to be satisfied and successful. If that’s the case, don’t wait for someone else to fill you in. Take charge, plug in, and get more information.

You May Be Out of the Loop if:

  • You see substantial change (reorganization, new leadership, downsizing, position changes) but don’t know why it’s happening or what it means
  • You meet silence or discomfort when you ask about the future
  • Others seem to understand organization culture and politics that leave you clueless
  • Your best source of news about your workplace is the media

If you’re out of the loop, don’t wait for someone else to be your informant. Do it yourself. Here’s how:

Build Your Network

  • Ask people from your team and others out to lunch
  • Travel with colleagues to meetings across town or out of town
  • Attend company or unit social functions, even when you don’t have to
  • Listen for clues about the culture and politics of the place

Do Your Homework

  • Read the company newsletters and annual reports
  • Scan the Internet, professional journals, business magazines, and newspapers for industry news and trends
  • Find out about the background of the new CEO or VP. If your boss or colleagues don’t know, search the latest company newsletter or homepage for a bio. If your organization has neither, ask around. Someone is bound to know.

Be a Detective
List a few specific questions you have about the organization and its operations. For example, “What is the plan for staffing of this department two years from now?” or “What new products or services are being considered?”

  • Ask these questions of your boss and some veteran colleagues to gain their perspectives
  • Talk to people who have left the organization; ask why they resigned
  • Use the Internet. Try sites like Vault.com that capture information from the electronic “water cooler”
  • Listen to the latest rumor. There could be a grain of truth in it. Don’t take it at face value but as a starting point for your detective work.

Watch the Bouncing Ball
Staying in the loop could be a full-time job in this fast-paced work world. Just when you think you have a handle on the latest scoop, top management turns over—again. Or the company gets acquired. People you trust give conflicting answers when you ask them about goals. Colleagues who are well positioned to know things admit that they only have rumors, not information, about future direction.

Remember that your goal is to get information that allows you to make the most of your job. Information is a key ingredient to your success and satisfaction.

Beware the Rumor Mill
You might think you’re in the loop, when actually you’ve plugged into the rumor mill. What we know about humans is that in the absence of information we make it up. Here’s how it can go:

  • Senior leaders think, “It’s too early to tell them.”
  • Employees think, “The silence must mean it’s pretty bad.”
  • Senior leaders think, “This news is too frightening—we’d better wait.”
  • Employees think, “They’re moving the company to Panama.”

Before you know it, the rumor has spread and people are busy updating their résumés or packing their bags.
The most recent rumor might, in fact, be reality. Or, it could be far from it! Take rumors to your boss or other great information sources. Check them out before you buy them or do anything based on them.

Close to the Vest
You know they have information they’re not sharing. But why wouldn’t they share? Because they might:

  • Know you’ll spread it—for good or bad
  • Be concerned about how you’ll take the news
  • Think you’re not interested or the news will distract you
  • Think it’s bound to change soon anyway
  • Be under strict instructions not to share. Sensitive information could include things like financial data that affect the firm, salary data, legal matters, personal plans about resignation or retirement, succession ideas for who will step in next, or staffing or downsizing plans.
  • Be just too busy

When they hold it close to the vest, you might be able to get just a little more information if you explain that you and others already have some vague idea about what’s going on. Or that your curiosity isn’t idle—it’s real concern for the organization. Or that the building rumor mill is more distracting than accurate information would be. It’s worth a try. Or ask when the information might be available.

Afraid you’ll appear pushy? That’s a legitimate concern. If your boss resists your honest attempt to get information, let it go! And be patient with managers who would like to tell you all they know but aren’t at liberty to do so. You may find yourself in a similar situation someday.

Give Information, Too
Think about the last time you gave information to your boss, your colleagues, or a senior leader. What did they do with it? Hopefully they listened and, at least occasionally, made some change based on it. Don’t give up. Your good ideas deserve, and need, to be heard. Offer your suggestions, ideas, and information. In the process, you’ll find others share information with you.

The bottom line: both giving and getting information is key to getting more of what you want at work.
© 2003 Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans. Excerpted from Love It Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. Used with permission of the publisher.

Enhance your connection to your organization with these AMA seminars:
Expanding Your Influence: Understanding the Psychology of Persuasion

Building Better Work Relationships: New Techniques for Results-Oriented Communication

About the Author(s)

Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans Beverly Kaye is the founder and CEO of Career Systems International, a training, consulting, and product development company specializing in talent management. She is the author of Up Is Not the Only Way. Sharon Jordan-Evans is president of the Jordan Evans Group, which specializes in executive coaching, leadership development, and retention and engagement. Kaye and Jordan- Evans are coauthors of Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay and Love It Don’t Leave It: 26 Ways to Get What You Want at Work, from which this article was excerpted. For more information, visit www.loveitdontleaveit.com