“Quid quo pro” is a reciprocal exchange. The definition is “something for something”. In plain English, it’s called trading favors or in slang, “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours”.
Reciprocal relationships in the workplace are powerful. Reciprocity, if done effectively, helps one gain influence and access to those people who can potentially serve as allies to advance your career.
Women typically shy away from this type of behavior as they see it as manipulative and political. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the workplace. As a consequence, they lack access to the informal networks and decision makers who can make or break their career.
According to the Center for Work Life Policy,
“To their detriment, women perceive cultivating relationships and mobilizing them on their behalf as, at best, an occasional necessity rather than the key exercise of leadership. They fail to see that the practice of seeking out powerful people, cultivating favor and cashing in those chips is itself a demonstration of leadership potential.”
On the other hand, research indicates that,
“Men view politics as part of the rules of the game, and they use informal systems built on the notions of loyalty, trading of favors and protection. They use informal systems to gain access to early information and to read political currents within the organization.”
Without access to these informal networks, how do women get this critical information?
The answer is they have to rely on the traditional organizational channels. And it’s often too little too late. Key decisions have already been made. They are powerless, therefore, to influence the decisions that influence their careers. The goal, therefore, is to get access to the decision makers and information beforehand.
This is where reciprocity comes in. Reciprocity helps to build strong allies who can, in turn, provide access to critical information. Collecting favors by scratching someone else’s back is like influence in the bank. Those who have the political savvy know best how to spend these chips or favors wisely at key decision points.
What is the best approach for women who are uncomfortable with trading favors?