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专栏 - 向Anne提问

为什么你那么靠谱却得不到提拔

Anne Fisher 2014年05月30日

Anne Fisher为《财富》杂志《向Anne提问》的专栏作者,这个职场专栏始于1996年,帮助读者适应经济的兴衰起落、行业转换,以及工作中面临的各种困惑。
因为你不敢冒险,承担大项目,所以,虽然你干活靠谱,但老板却看不到。相反,你的某些同事或许不如你聪明,不如你勤奋,但却敢出头,挑重担,就算失败了,老板也会看在眼里,记在心头。

    亲爱的安妮:我可以在这里发泄一下满腔郁闷吗?前几天,又有一位曾经一起共事的同事获得晋升,成了我的顶头上司,现在负责整个部门的运营工作。这种事其实以前也发生过,无论是在这家公司,还是在我过去的工作单位,按理说我现在应该习惯才对。尽管我不想给人留下爱发牢骚的印象,但我不得不说,这次似乎特别不公平。我已经在这家公司工作了七个年头,从来没有错过哪怕一个项目的截止日期,哪怕按时完工意味着晚上加班,周末不休息。有一次,我因为一个小手术住院,也没有停止手头的工作。

    相比之下,我们的新老板去年才加入这家公司,尽管不那么可靠(这样说已经算客气了),他还是被视为一位明星。制定晋升决策时,高管们真的那么看重外表而轻视实质吗?还是说,只有像我这样的笨蛋才相信辛勤工作应该获得回报?——一位来自旧金山的愤愤不平者

    亲爱的愤愤不平者:在普罗大众的想象中,辛勤工作是成功之母这个观点已经根深蒂固,任何人不会因为相信它而被视为傻瓜。但不幸的是,组织(像人一样)很少遵循这种理想模式,这就是他们经常要求一种行为、但实际上却奖励另一种行为的原因所在。这种做法当然令人困惑。

    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”。

    这本书其实没有它听起来那么偏激。在职业生涯早期,里德说,自己在“这样那样的中层管理岗位上”熬了很长时间。随后,他开始分析那些不太敬业、能力不足的同事为什么能够从众多中层管理者中脱颖而出,平步青云。他们究竟做了什么事情?正如你已经注意到的那样,他在书里也写道,智力超群的人不见得能够受到重用。大多数公司充满了“头脑聪明,但职位纹丝不动”的员工。

    原因在于,最勤奋的员工很少主动接受那些足以让他或她受到关注的巨大挑战。“稳健可靠的形象是通过一系列小成就确定下来的。小成就赢得小印象分,”他说。“所以,追逐大项目可以获得大成就。”这样一来,你的声誉甚至能够掩盖“难免出现的错误。上级领导往往能够记住做过大事的人。干活靠得住固然很好,但仅凭这一点无法给人留下深刻印象。”

    说的不错,但《如何窃取主管宝座》列举的职业生涯战略还不仅于此。里德认为,目前在美国企业中最流行的大多数口号都带有误导性,甚至毫无价值。比如那种认为取得进步需要激情的观点。“激情是最被滥用的商业术语,”他说。“我曾经充满激情地传播我的想法,直到有一天我意识到,我一直被大家视为大傻瓜。”

    里德说,只有等到“大家都知道我无论在什么情况下都能冷静地提出好几种方案(而不是充满激情地坚称我的方式是正确的),,”他才开始拾阶而上,步步高升。人们之所以获得提拔,在很大程度上是因为其他人,特别是(但不仅仅是)老板喜欢跟他们一起工作,而激情往往会引起同事的反感。“不管怎样,你最好的想法或许都会被采纳,根本没必要敲桌子,”他指出。“忘却激情,给人以冷静和公正的印象,往往更有助于你获得晋升机会。”

    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."

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