I had coffee last week with a friend (I’ll call him Joe) who had taken a job half a year ago at a large MNC, having been asked to join by someone (let’s call him Frank) who had just started there himself.
Joe took the offer, and he and Frank were now the regional support team, just the two of them.
He soon discovered Frank would not allow him to communicate directly with anyone in the organisation; Frank had to have everything channeled through him. The regional MD would come to Frank, tell him to write a policy position. Frank would tell Joe he was too busy, and have Joe write the paper. Joe did, Frank took the paper, cut and pasted it, sent it back to the boss, the boss thought it was great, Frank got all the credit.
If someone of power sauntered into Joe’s office, Frank would later storm in to Joe’s office, reminding him that he was the boss, protocol was to go to him first, not Joe.
Joe sat across from me and relayed a couple more stories about Frank (always out of the office but also never travelling where he was needed in the region, always calling Joe to see where he was and to remind him of what he was supposed to be doing..). What Frank did do well was look very good to his boss. There is an art to that..
“This is b—st,” Joe said to me. “I won’t do this anymore. I want to see if you’ve heard of any other jobs out there.”
“No. I usually don’t hear of them until after the fact, but how are you going to handle it now? What’s your strategy?”
“I want to get out.”
“Understood, but who knows about this? How are you raising your own visibility, and with whom?”
“Just some low level HR people know, they whisper about where he is all the time, and I don’t really have any access to many senior people. He’s always watching me.”
“Access to no one? Even if he’s watching, you’re the one doing the bulk of the work, someone has to know, no?”
“I think they might, but probably not. I have spoken to a couple of people about it. They see what he’s like, but there’s nothing they can do, they’re too busy with their own problems. So I’m stuck.”
“Not sure you’re stuck, you sound like a victim now.”
You get the point. Our talk continued on this way for some time. Most of us have experienced a boss that steals your work, calls it their own, micromanages, trusts no one and puts loyalty above everything else. They’re always around, and running from it solves nothing.
Such people have to be managed differently. In any mid-sized to large corporation, other people watch–they always do. To think otherwise is to deny human nature.
When they watch, there are opportunities to raise one’s own visibility, to promote one’s accomplishments. It can be done without crushing the boss or elbowing peers or braying, but nicely, ethically, and firmly, so people know what you’ve done, where you’ve contributed, and where you’re going.
Never ever think that hard work alone equates with corporate success. Understanding how to build one’s profile within a corporate environment, understanding the corporate culture and corporate language is paramount, and the higher up one goes, the more it matters.
My friend Joe may or may not stay, but if he does stay, will either learn how to change his profile or continue to be at Frank’s beck and call until he quits in frustration–not the way to exit.
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