Nice guys finish . . . well, maybe not last. But probably several rungs below C-level executives.
That doesn’t mean most CEOs are bad people. But when you approach the peak of any corporate mountain, the competition grows fierce and you have to be willing to fight or finesse your way to the pinnacle. That may involve manoeuvres a classic “nice guy” might not be willing to make—to his professional detriment.
Here are 10 slightly smarmy tactics your boss (or boss’s boss) may have employed on his or her trip to the mountaintop. Just be warned: When you take off the kid gloves, you might be the one who gets punched.
1. Stab from the Front
Be complimentary (but not effusive) when speaking to higher-ups about the people you manage, advises career coach Roy Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide. But when you talk with your reports in one-one-one or progress reviews, be critical of their work.
This will undermine their confidence, Cohen says. If your subordinates ever gripe to your peers or bosses, everyone will remember your public praise and lack of negativity. They’ll assume you’ve been quietly taking the high road and enduring problematic employees, which makes you look good, Cohen says.
2. Befriend the Top Dog’s Secretary
“This person is probably closer to the boss than anyone else at the company,” Cohen says. That means he or she has the potential to engage in a little evangelism on your behalf.
So ask about her kids, or stuff you know interests her. “When the boss’s secretary likes you, it’s a sure thing that your name will occasionally come up in conversation, and always with a positive spin,” Cohen adds.
3. Jump Ship Early—and Often
Screw company loyalty. Workers who stay with an employer an average of 2 years or longer tend to make 50 percent less during their careers than those who move from one company to another more frequently, shows a report from the non-profit research firm Catalyst.
Why? If you’re promoted within a company, your raise is tied to your current salary. But if you move to a new employer, your pay isn’t tethered to what you used to make.
4. Make Your Boss Look Good (But Not Too Good)
At some point, you’re probably going to be competing against him for advancement. That means you want him to say nice things about you to higher-ups, but you don’t want him taking all the glory for your hard work.
If you can, try to withhold your best ideas or insights until you’re in a meeting that includes your boss’s bosses. You can’t assume your manager will credit you for your smart solutions if you’re not present, Cohen adds.
5. Be a Bully
Most workplaces have one or two bullies. According to a study in the Journal of Managerial Psychology, these are the people who criticise their peers’ job performance, exclude others from lunch or after-hours get-togethers, and intimidate colleagues with cold or aggressive behaviour.
These are also the people who tend to receive high performance ratings, the study shows.
Why? It’s possible this bullying behaviour leads the jerk’s colleagues to gripe to bigwigs, feel less confident in their own abilities, or find new jobs—all of which undercut their ability to compete with the bully.
(While you’re at it, you might as well see What You Can Learn from the World’s Biggest A#@holes.)
6. Share Information Selectively
That means providing your coworkers with enough info for them to do their jobs—but not so much that you become dispensable. “Employees who see the big picture are viewed as far more valuable to the company,” Cohen says.
Making sure you’re the only one with a view of that picture is a great way to get and stay ahead of your competition.
7. Never Step Aside
You may be asked to share clients or customers with other team members or departments. You may even have to pass on business you earned to another account handler. Don’t—at least not before you’re sure your bosses recognise it was YOU who brought in the business.
“If that client insists that you serve as the point person for the relationship, your company will be forced to recognise and reward your contributions,” Cohen says.
If there’s some way for you to encourage that client’s insistence, do it.
8. State Your Demands
Plenty of research shows people who ask for raises and promotions tend to get them, while those who keep quiet are passed over. If you’re letting your work speak for itself, you’re probably not being heard, argues a report from the Harvard Business Review.
Document your achievements, and bring them up while asking for more pay or a better role during your annual or semi-annual performance review. You’re more likely to get what you ask for, the Harvard report shows.
9. Curry Favour—but Not to Your Boss’s Face
It’s hard to suck up and be subtle about it. But if you compliment your manager to your colleagues, not only will it get back to your boss, but you also won’t seem like a kiss-ass, Cohen says.
Just go easy on the praise when talking to people who out-rank your boss—otherwise you may be ensuring he stays a rung above you on the corporate ladder.
10. Be Savvy about Your Schedule
Does the head honcho tend to walk by your desk at a certain time each day? Then that’s when you should be scheduling client calls or other praiseworthy tasks, Cohen advises.
For example: If your boss likes to visit his troops at lunchtime, putting off your own meal in favor of work will give the big guy the impression your nose is to the grindstone while your colleagues are loafing.
Scheduling calls very early or late in the day—especially when your boss may be arriving or leaving the office—is another good idea, Cohen says.
By Markham Heid