Jeffrey Pfeffer on Why Kissing Up to Your Boss isn’t a Bad Idea

Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer shared the often unspoken power rules of business on an eye-opening session of the Social Capitalist. An outspoken truth-teller and academic rebel willing to question the orthodoxy, he proved again with his book, Power: Why Some People Have It and Others Don’t, why he’s one of our very top thinkers in management theory.

During the interview, Professor Pfeffer shared reasons that making the powers-that-be look good isn’t a bad idea.

I think many of us in particular are uncomfortable with having other people, particularly other people who we may feel are unqualified or who have gotten their positions in an unfair manner or, you know, who knows how they’ve gotten their jobs, but they have power over us and we don’t like it. And so we say, why does this person have the right to tell me what to do? And then we act and behave in a counter-dependent fashion, and that doesn’t get us very far at all.

Everybody has a boss, and to the extent that your boss likes you, thinks well of you, and wants to make you successful, you’re probably going to do way better than if your boss doesn’t like you and would rather never see you again, in which case you’re likely going to be fired.

When your colleague and co-author Keith Ferrazzi came to my class some years ago, he’s made a statement that I think is completely correct. He said, “You are not responsible for your career. Your blinding ambition is not going to necessarily make you successful. It is other people who are responsible for your career.” The people higher up in the organization whose fate – your fate, they control. And so your job is to make sure that they want to make you successful and have an interest in your success and well being. The best way to do that is to make those people feel better about themselves. And so flattery, yes, is one technique. Not disagreeing with them openly or in a confrontational way is another thing. It’s basically asking about any behavior that you’re going to exhibit, At the end of exhibiting this behavior, will the other people feel better or worse about themselves and about my effect on their self kind of esteem? And so, a lot of this is about being energetic, being enthusiastic, being positive, because all of those things are part of having people feel better about themselves.

For more insights into the role power plays in your success, read the full transcript and get the audio recording of this information packed Social Capitalist interview.

For more information about Jeffrey, visit www.jeffreypfeffer.com.

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