Business owners are forever looking for better ways to manage their employees. Chances are your workers are trying just as hard to manage you. Consider the popularity of so-called "managing-up" books -- get-ahead guides that teach employees the finer points of manipulating the big cheese.
Clearly, the fans of managing-up figure their higher-ups won't catch on because they haven't read the same books. Inc. decided to help its readers -- bosses by definition -- get the leg up on employees looking to get the leg up on them. Are your employees managing you? Here's what the "experts" are telling them.
Study your target: Many managing-up guides suggest an immersion course in all things boss-related. Managing Up: 59 Ways to Build a Career-Advancing Relationship With Your Boss urges readers to research their employer's family background, work history, awards, and the like. Pay dirt is some common foundation on which to build a relationship. "If you don't have a direct connection you may be able to develop an indirect one -- perhaps someone you know is from the same area," the authors suggest. What better basis for professional bonding than having a neighbor who, like the boss, grew up in Duluth?
Be a mirror: Observe the boss's priorities, decision-making habits, and pet peeves, the books advise, and then adapt your own workstyle accordingly. A few guides go several steps further. "Use your boss's favorite phrases ... quote your boss in meetings.... imitat[e] your boss's breathing pattern when conferring with that person," advises Winning Office Politics.
Get to yes: Whether a boss agrees to something may depend more on mood than on merit. The 59-Second Employee focuses on the moment when a superior bestows praise. Accept the compliment graciously, but then follow it up with a request: "a more challenging job, a better office, a raise.... " Managing Up takes a more, umm, scientific approach, telling employees to document their superiors' "daily energy cycle" in order to determine when they're most approachable. "Keep a personal journal to see if you can identify patterns over time," the authors say. Cognizant of the creepy stalker factor, the book advises readers to keep those journals at home.
Accentuate the positive: Managing Your Boss advises employees to "learn how to fake and hide" their negative emotions using professional acting techniques -- including the Method approach. In other words, if you want to look happy, think about something that made you happy. Or, put another way: Even though your heart is breaking, laugh, clown, laugh.
Know the right people: 169 Ways to Score Points With Your Boss advises employees to choose someone their employer respects as a mentor; that way they get the boss's approval. Winning Office Politics suggests a more personal approach: "befriending a higher-up's child can have a big personal payoff." (See creepy stalker factor, above.)
Push paper: Most experts suggest keeping a journal of achievements for reference at review time. Managing Up tells employees to submit weekly written reports. At the end of the year, the authors write, "you'll have 50 pieces of paper... documenting meaningful accomplishments for each week of the year."
What do actual bosses make of all this? Wyatt Starnes, CEO of Tripwire, Inc., a software outfit in Portland, Ore., sums it up best: "I can't help wondering: If you spend all that time studying your boss and writing reports and practicing cheerful facial expressions, how do you get any real work done?"
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