Getting the proper feedback from a senior — level manager, as Narcisse did, can help you decode important cues. “I understood from that point on that I should take those types of activities very seriously and consider them part of my working environment,” Narcisse relates. “I never missed another [event].”
Subtle messages can also be buried in evaluations, and criticism can come in a bushel of praise. Your boss may tell you you’re doing a fantastic job but add that there’s “one little thing” you could work on. “Whatever follows that statement is often the signal,” Davidson asserts. “The mistake that professionals make is that they think it really is a little thing, but in fact it is a significant issue, and he or she simply doesn’t feel comfortable saying it directly.”
Andrea Briscoe, a New York — based executive coach with Sage Consulting Inc., knows of a female manager at a large corporation who noticed a decline in her workload but never questioned it. Two months later, her position was eliminated. It was only in hindsight that the executive realized the light workload was a negative sign. “There are certain intuitive feelings that folks have,” explains Briscoe, “but the question is whether you follow up on them.”
Career — derailing cues can also come from peers and reports. For example, co — workers might not invite you to lunches — where important information is often exchanged — or your staff may withhold critical feedback on initiatives. The underlying message may be that peers consider you difficult to work with. And your staff may fear criticism or have a problem with your authority.
To avoid miscues and keep your career on track, Frankel offers the following tips:
Understand corporate politics. Employees who have had their careers derailed tend to focus more on completing tasks than on building relationships. “There really has to be a balance,” maintains Frankel. “If you’re wondering why certain people get ahead and you stay in place while you work harder, it almost always has to do with relationships.”
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