Mar 13, 2013 0 Share

Hidden Agendas

Boss arguing with younger employee; woman covers her ears in background.

It's not fair! 

Who do they think they are? I'm just trying to contribute some good ideas! 

Why do they have to be such dictators, anyway? 

Why doesn't my boss like me? What did I ever do to her? 

If I did anything wrong, why don't they just tell me? 

I just took worker's comp/medical leave/vacation that I was entitled to, and now my job is in jeopardy?! I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, so why am I still having problems?

Aren't they supposed to hear my side of the story before jumping to conclusions about me?

What in heck is going on around here ... 

... and what do I do about it? 

For anyone who wants to work for somebody else, Cynthia Shapiro's “Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn't Want You To Know—And What To Do About Them” is for you

First, Shapiro's got cred. She's a consultant who helps businesses better manage their employees, and employees better manage their careers. She spent years as a vice president of Human Resources. She's done the dirty work and seen it all. For example, she notes that, I once had to fire someone with four kids right before Christmas. When he asked me why, I couldn’t tell him it was because he said something in an all-company meeting that the CEO took as [an] insult.” 

The basic message: It's all about their agenda and needs, not yours. Figure out what they need, and fulfill it.

Shapiro describes management's agenda: To protect both themselves and also the firm they've worked so hard to develop and/or maintain. We need to know how they intend to do this, so we can figure out how to stay on their good side.

One of her most important points: Even though you're doing something they'd really rather you stop doing, they have strong reasons not to tell you

Management may avoid telling you because you may get really ticked off, and then maybe just argue with them, maybe quit, maybe stay but slack off in resentment ... or even sue them, with or without justification. (The latter possibility is why private one-on-one feedback meetings are going out of style. People increasingly want witnesses just in case the person they're criticizing comes out with a very different version of what happened at the meeting.) 

Another reason is that they'd rather you stop doing it on your own because you've changed as a person, not because you just want to get ahead. Keep in mind that many corporate behaviors which bosses insist on may seem pretty arbitrary or worse: filling out applications just so, showing up on time (if not early) every day, dressing up in a nice shirt, slacks (if not a suit and tie) and dress socks/hose and dress shoes, etc. 

Why don't managers tell you to shape up? Hey, if you give someone a gift and he doesn't thank you, what would it be worth if you asked him to thank you and he did? Not much. The thanks are worth much less in themselves than as a signal of what the person will do willingly. And if you want to get beyond the worker-bee level, your bosses will need for you to step up and do lots of things willingly, not because they're standing over you and telling you to do each and every little thing. 

That's why managers have secret standards. The ones who pass the unwritten little tests prosper because they've shown they've got what it takes.

Most importantly, Shapiro provides actionable, specific advice for advancing your career. Among other things, volunteer beyond your assigned tasks—especially for things your boss hates to do. Openly support, even cheerlead for, your company and keep everything you publicly say positive. Also, when something needs to be said privately, seriously consider saying it face-to-face only. And alongside these and many other great tips, she explains why they work

“Corporate Confidential” gives us a management's-eye view of the corporation—basically, what your boss (and his/her bosses) would love to tell you but generally won't. (And for those of us who'd like to improve on the current system, Shapiro closes with advice on how to manage well.)

If you want to get ahead—especially if you're an Aspie—you should include “Corporate Confidential” in your career resources.