I am in a middle management position. My Boss takes care of me, and protects my best interests. But now I need to step out, and let others in Senior Management see what I’m capable of. I’m afraid my Boss is taking advantage of my success, yet taking all the credit for it, while “protecting” me. How do I break out without creating any friction?
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY FRANKE JAMES
Essentially your question boils down to: ‘How can I climb the ladder without kicking my kind, supportive Boss in the face?’
There are many ways — from ruthless to ethical — to climb the ladder, but let’s imagine the ideal ethical scenario, which is…
Make your Boss believe it was his idea to promote you!
You may scoff and say that’s impossible but if you’re clever, and patient, that’s exactly what you’ll do. First off, if it was his idea, you would have his continued support. You wouldn’t be burning bridges. And you’d be working from a position of strength.
Let’s assume that you’re both working toward the shared goal of a more successful, more profitable company. If you agree with that notion, then it could be in his best interests to put you in a position where your wealth of experience and talent can be leveraged for the benefit of the company. And he can be recognized for helping nurture you. Think of a sports team. You’ve been really good as the back catcher, and now you’re ready to help win more games by actually swinging the baseball bat.
Dr. David Schwartz, in his classic “The Magic of Thinking Big” wrote that people are lifted to success by others. I think there is a lot of truth to that. People in positions of power are routinely asked by others to suggest good people who should be promoted. And those powerful people want to be able to recommend good, solid people (can you imagine the embarassment if that person recommended a ‘dud’?). Your situation is a perfect example where you could be lifted to success by your Boss. Now what would motivate him to do that?
#1. Plant the seeds: Subtly let your Boss know that you are brimming with great ideas to help the company, and that you are searching for ways to be more useful and effective. If he’s as smart and decent as he sounds he’ll gradually come around to helping you to ‘grow’ in a more senior position.
#2. Get good buzz: If the buzz going around about you is that you’re a team player, very smart, very capable — and you’ve been groomed by a great Boss — there will be expectations within the company that you’re in line to be promoted.
That’s my perspective. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Your feedback is much appreciated.
Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com
Feedback from Ladder-Climber
Thank you for the feedback. Just curious, what’s the ruthless route?
Response from Franke James, Office-Politics:
Well I did laugh when I read your response asking for the ruthless route.
I believe the ruthless route is the short-sighted route. Obviously the ruthless route is to sell yourself to the highest bidder with no concern for the bridges you’re burning. But the business community is tight-knit. Word will spread. The people that you befriend as you go through your career are like the foundations of a house. You want your reputation to be rock-solid. Unlike real estate, ‘Moving on’, and rebuilding a damaged reputation comes at a high cost.
Warren Buffet said it beautifully. “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan echoed Buffett when he said, “Nice guys need not be last”. “Material success is possible in this world, and far more satisfying, when it comes without exploiting others,” he said. “The true measure of a career is to be able to be content, even proud, that you succeeded through your own endeavors without leaving a trail of casualties in your wake.”
Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com
Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.
Publication note: This letter was originally published in May 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.