In my 18-year experience with an ‘honest job’, i.e. a job with a salary set arbitrarily by a ‘boss’, the folks who moved up the ladder into the corner offices were the most connected and congenial, not the most qualified.
Quick examples: I worked for a company that tended to hire and promote graduates from the same university from which the founders graduated; I didn’t, so I was ‘passed over’. I taught an advanced course in writing at a prime university with great success, but after a few years, the dean fired me. He replaced me by a person with the doctorate that I lack. Both cases are cronyism, a failure of management that I address in my book BigShots’ Bull *!@#.
I saw cronyism, nepotism, and favoritism so often that I quit the job jungle and became the ultimate entrepreneur. Now my bosses are my clients and I can fire them as easily as they can fire me.
Barry Wolfe, the author of The Little Black Book of Human resources Management, has reminded me that employees — or entrepreneurs, for that matter — are fired or passed over more often for lacking people skills than lacking technical kills. They just don’t ‘fit in’ or can’t ‘get along’.
He writes in his book:
Success is a matter of adopting some specific behaviors. Here are some that work:
Learn people’s names and use them. Seriously. Keep an employee list on hand and memorize with their pictures if you have to. I don’t remember names easily, but if I can put this in practice, so can you. Get the names right.
Get off your rear end out of your office. Make eye contact with as many people as you can; I mean even those 40 feet down the hall, or all the way across the floor. Smile at them, and wave — and when they’re in earshot say their names! Do this even if you’re in the middle of a hallway conversation. Never let people think you’re ignoring them.
Smile when you’re out in the halls or on the floor. Really. But here’s a caveat: when you’re in meetings with your peers or superiors, turn off your smile or risk coming off like a grinning lightweight.
You’ll snort at how little these gestures are. Put them to use, and you’ll be surprised at how powerful they are.