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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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 7:15:40 PM
Re: Inexpensive perk
@Bhori: Monthly reviews or some kind of ongoing feedback process would be incredibly helpful. Most annual review processes are time consuming and onerous for all involved and, except in cases of truly egregrious performance, rarely do they have any noticeable affect. Even without a formal process, it's smart for managers to make it a practice to give their team members continual feedback -- it's far more constructive to hear something in the moment than six or 12 months after it happened.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 1:49:05 PM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@SaneIT- True, if you are WAAAAY over or under a promise, you lose credibility. But i suspect if you say 6 months and constantly due it in 5 months and 3 weeks, you'll be appreciated. To me, that's basicaly in the realm of keeping the promise. You were on time. If you make it in 2 months they'll be like, "so what was the extra time for? What di they skip?"
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 1:46:44 PM
Re: Better
@tzubair- The studies are showing you are better off promising more then and delivering what you promise. The excess of what you promised is seldom noticed or appreciated.
D.M. Romano
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D.M. Romano,
User Rank: Moderator
7/30/2014 | 1:44:30 PM
What people think of you...
I can honestly say that I don't think anyone can truly assess what others really think of them in any real situation. In the office, I've found a mix of integrity and compatibility coupled with reliability have been the best personality traits that offer others enough respect for you. But in the end, do we really know what other's think of us? I think not. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/30/2014 | 1:39:31 PM
Re: Some goals are tricky
@pcharles09- I suspect all the over delivering gets noticed by the right manager. But i don't think it is in the way we think. I don't think it has to do with doing a better job. I think at has to do with the manager thinking, "I need this done. Who can i ask?" If you are constantly the one the manager knows they can ask, you're doing great. That can be done simply by meeting promises as well.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 7:36:25 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
My opinion on estimating project time is that if you're close then most people won't care if you go over a bit as long as you can identify why you went over.  If you say "we can get this done today" but something comes up and it is pushed off until the next day people understand and appreciate that you are busy.  If you say "we can do this in 6 months" and it takes an extra week people will understand.  If you say "this will take 6 months" and you get it done in 2 people stop listening to your estimates.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 6:20:12 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@Lorna: I think this psychological factor often works. Rather than setting your own internal deadline to be ahead of the actual deadline, most people are more comfortable with an external pressure that can make them be more discipilined. I think I myself would also fall in that category.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 6:08:42 AM
Re: Better
"Rather than under-promising and over-delivering, probably better to under-promise, keep the promise, and then make new, better promises for the easy excess."

@Joe: When you're in a situation where you're competing with a lot of others who're as qualified and skillfull as you are, you're often forced to deliver more than what you promise. If you simply keep up with what you promised, you're at par with others. But if you really want to stand out and exceed others, you have to do more. At least I was often faced with this situation during my career a lot of times.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
7/29/2014 | 11:16:12 PM
Better
It's also worth pointing out that "better" is a relative concept.  Row 10, for instance, may be my ideal -- close enough to see well but not so close that it's too loud for me or I have to strain my neck to look up at the stage.

Rather than under-promising and over-delivering, probably better to under-promise, keep the promise, and then make new, better promises for the easy excess.
pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Moderator
7/29/2014 | 10:45:54 PM
Re: Some goals are tricky
@David,

The real question is, with all those years of over delivering, do you feel like its been noticed?
<<   <   Page 3 / 7   >   >>
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