IT DOESN’T HELP to hurry up a process that hasn’t quite reached its end point, whenever that may be. Even one with an appointment made two weeks ago to discuss career prospects may be told to kindly wait outside — the boss is still taking a nap. (Maybe you can just reset the meeting?)
Waiting frustrates the supplicant. He cannot just follow up with another patron to lower the boom on a reluctant, or even forgetful favor giver. (But I am supposed to be in his succession plan.)
The rule for one being told to wait is simple — don’t call them, they’ll call you. But what if they take their time? There is no use trying to pin down a schedule when a decision is likely, as one will only be given vague timelines like: when your granddaughter has grandchildren of her own.
The waiting period can be preordained, which doesn’t make it any easier to bear. In politics, for one, the delay of gratification is determined by an election schedule, even when the opening is appointive in nature. There are even times when an office seems vacant, but the occupant is designated to be just “on indefinite leave.” There’s the incumbent’s empty office with the files still not cleared away.
Here are some rules for waiting outside the loop.
Manage your expectations. You will hear from the grapevine that you are the frontrunner for the position you have been craving. You are at the top of a shortlist down to three. You may even be congratulated prematurely by people maybe expecting favors later. It’s best to temper your greed and act nonchalantly — I’m sure they are considering others, maybe even from the outside. You may even be prophetic.
Do intermediaries help shorten the waiting? It’s best to leave the process alone. Use of go-betweens can spook the process. The assigned broker may even add unsolicited comments like “this guy is really in a hurry and pressuring you to give him the position.” Such remarks can only reflect badly on your nonchalant posture (see above).
If you seem to have a lock on a position, it is best to keep quiet. For an appointive position in government, silence means not giving any comment on any issue of the day. Learn from the mistake of previous contenders who seem drawn, like moths to the flame, to any live microphone. Resist sending memos to those on top, wondering why there is no reaction or marginal notes back.
The best posture to take while waiting for that announcement is simply working hard in one’s present position, limiting comments and e-mails to one’s area of responsibility, and refraining from commenting on other subjects. When asked about plans should one get the coveted position, it’s best to just shrug and walk away. (Let’s have coffee next week.)
Names are always swirling around a vacant position. And if yours is not among the buzzed list, there’s no need to panic. A name from “left field” which has not even been mentioned before will be a surprise. It may not even be you.
Those waiting to be appointed to an important position can be allowed to fantasize about the desired position with its salary grade, perks (new hybrid car), and power. They tend to read into such things as the long gap between being called to meetings, the unexplained silence from the appointing authority, even the exclusion from an invitation to a birthday party.
The most important aspect of waiting has to do with patience. Only an expert in the game can practice restraint and let seemingly harmless opportunities for self-promotion go unexploited. Conversations with the powerful ones are off tangent. (Yes, I know that music. It’s Bach.)
Even the most astute player cannot calculate when the waiting will be over. When is the right time for taking the bull by the horns, forcing the issue, or simply writing off the possibility and submitting a letter of resignation? (Will I be requested to stay on?)
There’s no use checking the calendar too often. Just kill time and read War and Peace. Maybe you’ll even reach almost halfway to page 765… and appreciate Tolstoy’s portrayal of Napoleon as a bumbling buffoon foiled by the Russian winter. You can surely relate to such epic frustrations. And then your cell phone buzzes… with another shared joke.
Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda