布伦丹•里德目前在一家他不愿透露名称的科技公司担任高管。这种现象在他长达20年的职业生涯中屡见不鲜，促使他撰写了一部以此为主题的著作：《如何窃取主管宝座：商学院永远不会教你的职场获胜之道》(Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They'll Never Teach You in Business School )。这本书一开篇就破除了里德所称的“用人唯才神话”。
Dear Annie:Can I just vent some frustration here? A few days ago, yet again, someone I used to work with got promoted over my head and is now running the whole department. This has happened before, both here and where I worked before, so I should be used to it by now. But, without sounding too whiny, I have to say it seems especially unfair this time. I've been here seven years, have never missed a project deadline even when meeting it meant working nights, weekends, and once even when I was in the hospital for minor surgery.
Our new boss, by contrast, just got here last year and is considered a star despite being, to put it politely, not nearly so dependable. Do senior managers making decisions about promotions really value flash over substance? Or am I just a chump for believing that hard work should be rewarded? —Steamed in San Francisco
Dear Steamed:The notion that hard work leads to success is so ingrained in the popular imagination that believing it doesn't make anyone a chump. Unfortunately, though, organizations (like people) rarely conform to the ideal, which is why they often demand one kind of behavior but reward some other kind, which can certainly be confusing.
Brendan Reid, now a senior executive at a technology company he'd rather not name, noticed this so often over his 20-year corporate career that he wrote a book about it. Stealing the Corner Office: The Winning Career Strategies They'll Never Teach You in Business School starts with dispelling with what Reid calls "the myth of meritocracy."
That's less cynical than it sounds. Reid spent lots of time earlier in his career "being manager of this and manager of that," he says. Then he started analyzing what less dedicated, less competent peers were doing to break out of the middle-management pack. As you've noticed, intelligence is no guarantee of moving up, he writes. Most companies are full of "smart but stationary" people.
The reason, he says, is that the most diligent, hardworking employees rarely take on big enough challenges to get noticed. "Being steady and dependable is defined by a series of small wins. And small wins score small points," he says. "So go after big projects, where you can score big wins." That way, he adds, your reputation can even handle mistakes "when they inevitably happen. Higher-ups remember people who did big things. Reliability is fine, but it just doesn't stick in anyone's mind."
Okay, but the career strategy laid out in Stealing the Corner Office doesn't stop there. Reid believes most of the buzzwords currently in vogue in corporate America are misleading or downright worthless. Take, for instance, the notion that getting ahead takes passion. "Passion is the most overused word in business," he says. "I used to be extremely passionate about my ideas, until the day I realized I was coming across as a jerk."
Reid says he started moving up through the executive ranks only after "I became known for calmly presenting several options, in any situation, instead of passionately insisting my way was right." People get promoted, he says, in large part because other people — especially, but not only, bosses — like working with them, and passion too often puts colleagues off. "Your best ideas will probably be adopted anyway, without your having to pound the table," he notes. "It's much more useful to forget about passion, and come across as unemotional and impartial."