Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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7/28/2014
08:06 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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How To Be An Office Hero: 3 Myths, Busted

You rely on a set of social assumptions to get ahead at work, but some of those assumptions don't match with science.

No matter where you are on the org chart, you've always got someone to impress. The new help desk hire has to impress everyone. The CIO has to impress the CEO. Even the CEO has to impress the board and the shareholders. To do that, we all employ a series of social strategies that we hope will help us go up the corporate ladder. With each promotion we assume that we're doing the right thing, but once in a while science throws us a curve ball and teaches us what we've been doing all along might not be the best strategy. Here are three recent findings that have shown you might not being doing everything necessary to be an office hero.

Myth No. 1: Under-promising and over-delivering is the best way to impress
It turns out this might be wrong, and it might be costing you valuable time and effort that you could be using on other tasks. New research (subscription required) from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business shows that people are very grateful when you keep a promise, but there are few additional returns on exceeding that promise.

In fact, on occasion, exceeding the promise is looked on in a negative light. This is not only true for people but for businesses dealing with customers. For instance, the team asked undergrads to purchase concert tickets from a mock website. The purchased tickets were for row 10. But people in the study were sent tickets that were better, worse, or exactly what was ordered. Not surprisingly, those receiving tickets worse than row 10 were annoyed. But more surprisingly, those who received better tickets reported that they were less happy than those who get the tickets they bought.

[Experienced? Be proud. Read IT Leaders, You're The Cavemen Who Survived.]

So the next time your boss asks for something on Friday and you burn the midnight oil to get it to him on Wednesday, reconsider what you are doing. She's going to be exactly as grateful as if she got it on Friday. Meanwhile, your ability to make and keep other promises is negatively affected. Better to make and keep a whole bunch of promises than to exceed just one.

Myth No. 2: I know exactly what people think of me
Chances are really good you don't. A shockingly large number of people have no idea when they have "crossed a line" socially or in business settings. Columbia Business School doctoral candidate Abbie Wazlawek studied MBA students in mock negotiations. Wazlawek asked the participants to rate their partner as either too assertive, not assertive enough, or just right.

She found that 57% of people who were found to be under-assertive by their partner thought they were just right or over-assertive. She also found 56% of people who were found to be over-assertive thought they were just right or under-assertive. In other words, in a tense business situation you have the same chances of knowing if you were inside social norms as you do of guessing a coin flip.

Another finding in the study was that many people who were actually "just right" with their assertiveness felt that they had "crossed a line" and felt too assertive.

This makes for a fun paradox. The findings show that people who are "just right" or under-assertive are leaving "money on the table" in negotiations

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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Bhori
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Bhori,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 10:47:21 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@ Number 6: Yes, we have bonuses which were supposed to be performance related. But unfortunately, at most places merit of the review becomes closeness and personal liking of the reviewer rather than the actual performance. And, the sad part is that when measures are qualitative rather than quantitative you it is very difficult to win an argument.
Bhori
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Bhori,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 10:46:43 AM
Re: Inexpensive perk
@ Lorna & Dave: I am in favor of 360° monthly performance review which sums up to annual appraisal. This way, time and latest performance biases can be avoided. Surely, it would be time consuming but it only once need to be adapted in corporate culture. Slam books and corporate wikis are very risky unless you have highly civilized and sensible reviewers other it would just lead to bullying and defamation.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 7:14:36 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@David, I would also throw in there that if you're constantly under promising you may find yourself looking for a job.  People get tired of hearing that their IT team can't pull off the amazing things that they see everyone else doing. Most of my project talks start with a question like "is it possible" or "can we" and I let them know that with enough time and money anything is possible.  They just have to decide what it is worth for them to have what they are dreaming about and I'll make it happen.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 7:07:08 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@MultiHats, that was part of my point. People are getting used to this method of under promising and they assume that any time estimate given is just some arbitrary number.  I have people ask me all the time if I really think that consulting hours are going to be close to what is being presented because they are convinced that the complexity of the issue is being exaggerated.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 10:58:58 PM
Re: People are tricky, bring on the robot bosses!
@Dave can you imagine all the negative performance reports they'd create for the human workforce?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 3:27:53 PM
Re: Likeability factor
Identity Integration? Is that different than self-awareness?
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 3:26:11 PM
Re: Likeability factor
@vnewman2- Oh, it is a wonder you ever married him. :)

Seriously I get that. I would have felt the same way. But let me give you a counter example that I think makes people think that works more than it does-- movies.

Haven't we all gone to a movie we were really looking forward to and it was just fine but because we were really excited it felt bad? And haven't we all gone with friends to a movie we didn't want to see, and we liked it more than we thought we would so it was a pleasant surprise?

That is a classic underpromise/overdeliver situation, right? 

Also, tell your husband if he ever suprises you with a trip in the future, that he has to at least pack a secret bag for you. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/28/2014 | 3:21:03 PM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@Number6- I always assume salaries for STEM were like salaries for athletes. It isn't that they need or want the money so much as it is a way of keeping score and measuring the respect you receive. And specifically for engineers, I think it is money to buy cool new toys to experiment with. 
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
7/28/2014 | 2:57:45 PM
Re: Likeability factor
@Alison.  Hahahaha :)  Why live outside if there's perfectly good shelters available I always say...

You make a good point.  If I ask for something from a client and expect it on a certain day, if it shows up early, it totally stresses me out because I'm a planner.  If I had just checked it off my list, I probably don't want it back so soon!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/28/2014 | 2:33:23 PM
Re: Likeability factor
What a great analogy (and totally with you on the camping thing!). It's true though: We like to look forward to events -- or even knowing deadlines or tasks will be completed on time. At work, knowing X will be done by Friday, allows us to plan Y on Monday. If it arrives two days early, as a manager you feel you have to praise someone for finishing early (perhaps at the cost of another project), and it then throws off your other plans. Or you may question whether all facets of X were completed if it didn't take as long as expected. 
<<   <   Page 5 / 7   >   >>
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