There are times in life, when it pays to pretend ignorance. When you pretend to know not – but you do know! Especially when it comes to managing your boss – whether in the world of commerce or in politics.
Here are nine basic rules which have always helped people to survive and to succeed. These are rules, which become internalized, in successful persons anywhere in the world.
1. Never let him feel that you are smarter than him. To imply that you are smarter through verbal, written or non-verbal communication, whether in private, or worse, in public, can be your undoing. You will be labeled a show-off, and be kept at a distance.
2. Never let him know that you know his weaknesses. You should cover up for your boss, but in such a subtle way, that there is no embarrassment, and nearly always, they feel they did it themselves.
3. Never let him know that you know about his indiscretions. Whether it is his love life, or some corrupt practices. Best to just stay mum – and pretend ignorance even when someone reports this to you, and tries to drag you into a conversation.
4. Never let him know that you know about his past. Happenings like being sacked from an earlier assignment, or demoted to a position of lesser importance, or transferred to a location of obscurity.
5. Never let him know that you are looking for better opportunities elsewhere, perhaps, to learn and improve, and perhaps also for a lot more money.
6. Never talk about the progress of your children in school, especially if they are doing extremely well (and his children might not be). This brings in another area of competition, quite unnecessary, and can be an additional irritant.
7. Never mention that you are underutilised, because your efficiency level is high. This will only result in more work being dumped on you- from him and possibly even from others.
8. Never let him know that your spouse is very wealthy (if she is), or that she is earning very well. This causes jealousy and also gives the feeling that you don’t need this job and at this salary.
9. Never talk about your parents – especially if they were well placed and well off. Again, this may create envy, which affects relationships in the work place.
Following these nine rules consistently and routinely, making them a part of your character, helps to make the path smoother and life less complicated, for all of us.
If you analyse the profile of all your successful friends, you will find that they do all or most of what has been outlined above.
We know that in the developed world, especially in the US, the old order is changing. There are now situations where a past subordinate in an earlier job, is now the boss in the new company you are joining. But the job content and the higher salary does not allow you to let the past crossing of paths, to come in the way.
We know, that some companies now have the new entrant, being interviewed by a panel of the future immediate reports (ie after he joins, they will all be reporting to him). There are companies where the subordinates also give a quarterly report on the boss, when in the past, it was only the boss who would do this, the other way round.
All this is true – and there may be more variants to come – especially with companies like Netflix that are setting the pace in this new world order. However, this does not diminish the importance of the Eight Rules for a peaceful, yet successful management career.
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe, and Asia. His latest 3 books written in collaboration are 5Gs of Family Business; Marketing in a Digital/ data world; and Customer Value Starvation can kill. He now spends most of the time in NGO work.)