7 tips to discover dangerous hidden internal organizational networks that can hurt your career

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Companies and internal organizations seem transparent. Especially if you look at an organization chart. It seems an ideal representation of reality and everyday office life, but reality is different! In this short article you will learn key tips and strategies how to identify dangerous internal organizational networks, so you can stay safe in your job and throughout your career.

In many companies, an organization chart is just a facade. If you want to become successful within your company, you must first become aware of the hidden networks and power relations in your company. You will have to find out who is really in charge of a department and who has a strong influence on people who are important to you. You need to find out who your manager’s right hand and listening ear is.

If you are aware of the hidden networks and power relations, this will help you to gain a strong position within your company. You can then let other people lobby for you. You will find out rumors and secret information in time, which will allow you to defend yourself or take certain opportunities. But if you ignore these hidden networks? Then this can even cost you your job and hurt your career.

So what are some examples of colleagues who are part of such a hidden network and who have enormous power and influence?

The company secretary

In some companies it seems that communication is informal. It would seem completely ok to approach your manager’s boss, but appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes the secretary is one of the most powerful people in a company. She sees and hears everything and is the confidant of the big boss.

Do you neglect personal contact with the secretary or do you treat her badly? Then this can be harmful to your career. She can talk negatively about you to the big boss or in front of other colleagues. Or simply just annoy you, by not having your expense declaration signed in time.

Your Fans and Ambassadors

On the other hand, if you treat important colleagues well and with respect, this can help you tremendously. Give them recognition and the feeling that their role is indispensable. That it is so nice that they are there to help you. Also ask them what you could do to improve the relationship and cooperation between the departments. Give them subtle public recognition.

You will see that these colleagues become your own loyal fans and internal ambassadors. They will help you open doors that remain closed to other colleagues. This way, certain colleagues can help you get higher up in the organization.

The manager’s favorite colleague

Another topic that regularly occurs is the favorite colleague of your manager or the big boss. That is the colleague who enjoys special protection. For example because of a special relationship with the big boss. In many cases this is an attractive female colleague.

Sometimes the big boss has secretly had an affair with his favorite colleague, or is this his big dream and he has not yet succeeded? It could also be that they have already had an affair. The big boss now keeps his “favorite colleague” firmly in her job position. His favorite colleague has suddenly become untouchable and blackmails the big boss … so that painful details about the secret affair are never to be made public.

With these kinds of favorite colleagues it is very important that you leave them alone, or at least treat them as equal. Never try to put her in a bad light by gossiping behind her back. If the big boss sees that his favorite colleague is being treated badly, he will immediately intervene to protect her. That can really mean that you are suddenly sidelined. That suddenly, for inexplicable reasons, your contract is not renewed.

I therefore advise you to accept and acknowledge that such relationships are unbreakable. Better you just leave them alone. What you can do, for example, is help the favorite colleague if she needs it. And then hope that the favorite colleague talks positively about you to the big boss. But be careful not to get too close with her. Otherwise, this can become uncomfortable for the big boss.


Below I have summarized seven tips for you, on how to discover hidden internal organizations and what you can do best with them, so that it can bring you personal benefit:

1) Create your own organization chart! Draw who are friends with whom. Where possible hidden interests or power are exchanged. Use different colors for the lines of the organization chart. For example: green for neutral, yellow for medium danger and red for critical and dangerous. Store this in a safe place so that it can never be accidentally discovered by your colleagues!

2) Try to find out who are the people you could use to strengthen your own situation and personal brand. Also focus on the people who may be a threat. Try to isolate that danger first!

3) At lunch or during the network drinks, check which people are very close to each other and pay close attention to their non-verbal communication. Do they laugh and touch each other now and then? Is there a lot of eye contact? Then these are the first signs of hidden relationships.

4) Do people often leave work at the same time or in quick succession? Do they often go for lunch together or do their 1-on-1 meetings often take a little longer than usual? Then you should definitely put these people on your list!

5) Try to make an overview for yourself who are the most important people for you. On the left you write the colleagues you like and with whom you have good contact. In the middle, put the people who are now neutral, but who may become interesting for you. On the right, draw the people who are negative about you, or possibly threaten you because of their position or hidden relationships.

6) Make sure that you regularly participate in joint lunches and drinks. This way you can pay extra attention to how colleagues interact with each other in a more informal atmosphere. You will then be able to recognize the hidden relationships faster. Also pay attention to who takes the initiative to talk to you. Also ask yourself afterwards why they do that. Was it really just for fun, or do they have a hidden agenda?

7) Ask your manager which colleagues are extra important to him and the team. Ask how you could help him improve the relationship with these colleagues. You score twice! On the one hand you help your boss, on the other hand you can compare his feedback with your own list. You can now check whether you were indeed right.

From now on, don’t be surprised by hidden internal relationships and power relations! Pay attention to it regularly. Be aware of the unique opportunities, but also of the threats.

Respond to the opportunities and take measures to limit the risks. So you will be one of the few who can see how your company actually functions and how your colleagues actually work together.
Always keep the information and things you discover to yourself!

Don’t gossip about hidden affairs or power relations, because then you will hand over all your secret cards. Don’t be tempted. If you still want to talk to someone about it, discuss it only with your partner or family.

Be vigilant and make sure that your unique benefit and secret knowledge never enter the public domain!

This is an excerpt from the book “The corporate sales winners guide: Transform your life and become a top sales performer” by Gerrit Jan de Vries. View the ebook and the paperback version on Amazon.

Gerrit Jan de Vries

Maximize your commercial potential! IT sales and purchasing strategies. Consulting, business development, sales, writing.

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