Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Psychological "Sway" in the Workplace

Do first impressions really count?

According to Ori and Rom Brafman, brothers and authors of the book Sway, those first crucial interactions with new colleagues or classmates really do.

A recent article in the New York Times, describes their book as taking a look at "the psychological forces that lead us to disregard facts or logic and behave in surprisingly irrational ways" - and how these psychological forces affect our careers.

Ori Brafman shares this anecdote with the author of the article, Marci Alboher:
"I have this friend who is a lawyer and in the first two to three weeks of his job, he made sure to create the impression that he was a hard worker. He was the first in and the last to leave. He would not get up from his desk and didn’t take personal calls. He barely got up to use the bathroom. By the end of the first month, he started to relax, took longer lunches and what’s interesting is that no one noticed. They always attributed that initial value — hard worker — to him. He’s going on seven years and still has that reputation."

If this is the case for all offices, then the idea of first impressions takes on even greater weight. More than affecting whether you get a second date or are considered "cool" by peers, the first impressions that you make in the workplace (and in a summer internship) could influence your entire career path from then on. Those tips for success in an internship or first job become even more important - show up early, leave late, join in office organized social outings, take on even the most menial of tasks, and you could be set for the entirety of your time at an organization.

So is success in the workplace all about psychological mind games? I'm not sure - but I'd rather be safe than sorry - which is why I'll be working late tonight.

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