Don't Dis the Gatekeepers

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While restaurant waiters know their tips hinge on the cooperation they get from cooks and the bus people who clear tables, on Wall Street it's easy to forget your firm's back-office gatekeepers - even those with low-ranking titles - can either smooth or block your path. Rub one of them the wrong way, and they can retaliate by stonewalling every request you make in the future.

Tuesday's "Cubicle Culture" column in The Wall Street Journal demonstrates how functionaries like supply-room attendants "can highlight the fragility of workplace productivity, and they're also another argument for having friends in lower places." Although the article refers to manufacturers and government agencies rather than financial institutions, its message is valid for our industry too.

To be sure, a tyrannical supply-room troll is a far likelier sight in a school or a public agency than in a big-ticket Wall Street shop. But our business has its own choke points whose attendants must be cultivated.

Here are a few that come to mind:

Compliance: Financial institutions collect a variety of data from each employee, ranging from personal trading to advance approvals for outside work, such as serving on corporate or non-profit boards. Get your forms in on time and promptly and graciously answer any questions that arise. If you get on these people's bad side, you risk getting on their radar screen, which is the last thing you want.

Finance Departments: Most Wall Street employers are strict about how employees document both trades and business expenses. That gives informal power to the individuals who process those submissions.

Human Resources: If you're a hiring manager, or are in line to eventually become one, you'll need this group's active cooperation to fill openings in your group.

How are your relationships with support staff? Tell us about your experiences by posting a comment below.

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