The Financial Times - The Careerist: Working with a role model
The Financial Times: Careerest - Working with a Role Model
By Rhymer Rigby
We are often told we should have role models and heroes at work. But is it really a good thing to work for someone who you greatly admire?
What are the positives?
Given that the single biggest reason people leave their jobs is a bad boss, there are definitely upsides to having a manager you admire. "It’s a better place to be than with someone you hate," says Ceri Roderick of business psychologists Pearn Kandola.
Executive coach Geraldine Gallacher adds: "It’s not often you meet someone you admire in business, and it is much more pleasant and less draining than spending your time being frustrated by your boss’s incompetence."
What do I need to watch out for?
"The most obvious potential risk is that you won’t challenge their views sufficiently," says Ms Gallacher. Being overly agreeable can result in you being seen as a "yes person" who lacks integrity and backbone. This can lead to your fortunes being too bound up with those of one other person.
"The easy thing to do is to preserve the relationship at all costs," says Mr Roderick. "In the short and medium term, this can lead to good outcomes. But in the long run, it isn’t good for either partner. If it all goes wrong, the boss will turn round and say: ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ Careers derail because people are afraid to give bad news and allow the other person to make mistakes."
Ms Gallacher notes that being in thrall to your boss can also undermine you: "Admiring the person you work for can be confidence sapping because you never quite feel on top of things."
She notes that we occasionally need the thrill that comes from outsmarting our managers.
How can you tell if your admiration is misplaced?
Ms Gallacher suggests the following: "Imagine their perspective on a topic coming from another colleague." Then, ask yourself whether you’d rate it as highly. "If the idea’s appeal plummets then you may well be overly deferential."
Look at your colleagues too. Do they admire this person? Michael Crom, executive vice-president of Dale Carnegie Training, says: "You should ask yourself what you admire in people and try and understand what it says about you."
You may be admiring things such as superficial charisma and easy charm, rather than intellect or work ethic.
What can I do to guard against admiration overload?
"Get to know them at a deeper level as we often admire what people project rather than what they really are," says Mr Crom. He notes that working in stressful situations with people can help humanise them. "When you put in long hours, you see the good and the bad."
Although speaking truth to power can be very difficult, it often leads to the person in question respecting you more. "A number of very admirable, charismatic people are often borderline narcissists," says Mr Roderick. "But they need people who’ll tell them when they’re wrong and be blunt and objective – and these people stand out and are valued."