There are times when doing a good job just isn’t enough

Tom is an ambitious, fast track kind of guy. He had a track record of success in everything he attempted - until he accepted a job that was too big, too fast. He was used to solo projects where he could make changes quickly. He underestimated the difficulties of working with a large team. Less than one year later, he was fired.

Ellen, a 10-year employee who was manager of benefits for a Fortune 500 company, was taken by surprise when a new position was created above her, and the person who filled it became her boss.

Her new boss was a stickler for returning all phone calls the same day. Ellen refused, truly believing her system of "batching" them was more efficient. Six months later, she was removed from her job and assigned to "special projects."

Both Tom and Ellen fell victim to their own political faux pas. Even though both were told that their performance was at fault, it was their lack of political savvy that really hurt them.

Certainly, doing a job well is very important, but it's more than that. An awareness of the needs and expectations of your boss, your peers and your employees is essential for career health. Outplacement firms - companies that help fired executives find a new job - are in an excellent position to watch for termination trends.

"When cutbacks occur, it's like musical chairs. When the music stops, there may not be a chair for you, if you aren't politically agile. Then you're out of the game," says Adela Oliver, president of Oliver Human Resources Consultants Inc., a New York-based outplacement firm.

"Some managers fail to recognize a recurring pattern in themselves," Oliver observes in the June issue of the "Personal Report for the Executive." She observed some common traps:

·        Failure to salute the general. Regardless of what you think of the boss, you must make him or her look good. Even if you've been in the firm longer or doubt his ability, you must show respect for his or her position.

"Your boss may appear to take no notice of slights, but come the day of judgment," warns Oliver, "and the boss will have you eliminated."

Ellen ignored the importance of this unspoken rule and paid the price. The fact that her new boss' position was a surprise is another signal that she wasn't tuned in to political happenings above her.

Burning your bridges. No one moves up the ladder alone, but some people tend to forget those who helped them. They don't give credit where it's due or force their way to get what they want. Others are unskilled and clumsy when it comes to gaining commitment from those around them. Tom fell from his star-studded ladder over this one.

The office romance. This is risky no matter how discreet you think you are. That gleam in your eye is hard to miss. It won't get you fired unless it affects the productivity or your department. But when your boss is asked to cut back on staff, you may be the first to go.

Bypassing the boss. "In the long run, it will always be lethal," Oliver stated. Doing an "end run" on your boss - no matter how big a jerk he may be - is a sign of political naivete. Even if your boss' boss singles you out for a special assignment - beware.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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