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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pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Moderator
7/31/2014 | 7:29:50 PM
Re: Some goals are tricky
@Bhori,

Very true. It's like the Army: you don't want to be the head of the troops or the least. Just stay right in the middle of the pack & try NOT to get noticed. I don't think that's a good way to operate but if one doesn't have complaints, then do that well.
Bhori
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Bhori,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 7:05:57 PM
Re: Some goals are tricky

In some organizations with too high of a hierarchy, even those simple acknowledgements can go unknown.

@ pcharles: I couldn't agree more. Unfortunately this is the case in many organizations where HR system is either ineffective or purposefully flawed. Line or department head sitting over you, doesn't let your accomplishments or performance recognized, just to keep his position secure. In those environment it isn't wise to spend your time and efforts in over performing but rather finding a better alternative for yourself.

Bhori
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Bhori,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 6:54:01 PM
Re: Inexpensive perk

it's far more constructive to hear something in the moment than six or 12 months after it happened.


@ Susan: Completely agree. I think Intra company social network can do this job well, but it will only fulfil the purpose if it builds up into annual performance score and used as replacement of annual appraisal.

David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 4:25:18 PM
Re: Likeability factor
@impactnow- Right. People do have a tendency to get "too busy." I think we need to keep talking about the value of it until people really see that not doing it is worse for them than finding the time.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 3:08:02 PM
Re: Likeability factor
Dave agreed on both accounts. Having people around you that are truly looking after your professional success is hard to find but invaluable once you get them. The issue is everyone is so busy with their own careers they rarely have time to mentor the bench. It's critical mistake for the long term success of any organization.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/31/2014 | 12:13:59 PM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@Joe- I think that's an interesting point about overpromising. I think stretching yourself is a good thing. But serious questions:

1) Is it still overpromising if you deliver? 

2) It might be overpromising to you because it is a stretch, but will anyone else see that?

pcharles09
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pcharles09,
User Rank: Moderator
7/31/2014 | 9:26:56 AM
Re: Some goals are tricky
@David,

Great point. I was just hoping that it gets noticed. In some organizations with too high of a hierarchy, even those simple acknowledgements can go unknown.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
7/31/2014 | 8:14:50 AM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
@David, It sounds like we are on the same page, I just see many who are not.  Maybe not on this thread but in real life I see a lot of IT pros who seem to just throw numbers out to see what sticks.  I try to deliver quickly based on what my department can handle but not so quickly that we're going to have to cut corners.   That's a balancing act that the industry as a whole needs to spend some time addressing.
Joe Stanganelli
IW Pick
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 11:21:15 PM
Re: No more Mr. Scott
The other strategy, which I've used often to success -- overpromise, but then deliver fully on that overpromise.

Coming from a working-class Italian background, the work ethic I grew up with was always: "Yes, I can do that."  And then busting your butt to figure out how to do it, and doing it -- even if you have no idea what you're doing it at first.

Granted, this isn't ALWAYS the best strategy (it all comes down to ROI, after all -- no use in going above and beyond for something that's not going to be worth it), but if you really push yourself, you can do amazing things -- and impress others and yourself at the same time.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
7/30/2014 | 11:16:59 PM
Re: Better
@tzubair: I wasn't very clear, I think (or I'm misunderstanding you).  Apologies.  My point is that by purposely piecemealing things, you're building a stronger relationship with your client/coworker/boss/whomever.
<<   <   Page 2 / 7   >   >>
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