Jeffrey Pfeffer: Why Performance Won’t Get You Promoted

If you’re going to play the game you should at least educate yourself on the unwritten rules. If you don’t, you’ll always be at a disadvantage.

In an NPR interview (audio below), Stanford business professor Jeffrey Pfeffer highlights why performance won’t get you promoted and why power corrupts.

Here are my notes on the audio interview:

1. Performance is elusive and thus can be shaped and managed;

2. You can do your job too well;

3. The world doesn’t work the way you want it to – the way to change it is to go out and make something happen;

4. Power corrupts — when you attain power you don’t think you have to follow the rules anymore;

5. When you’re in a position of power everyone is trying to curry your favor and you end up surrounded by sycophants;

6. Power can be converted into money;

7. Power gives you control over your work (time and pace);

8. You need power to get things done;

9. The more powerful you are the less people will be willing to forgive you;

10. Influence is power in action; and

11. You can have power or autonomy but not both.

Some of you might be skeptical of Pfeffer’s tactics; but he points out, that if the ends don’t justify the means then what does?

My favorite part of the interview was the quote from a newsman saying: if you don’t like today’s news, go out and make some of your own.

According to Pfeffer’s book Power: Why Some People Have It And Others Don’t, there are seven personal qualities that help to build power: ambition, energy, focus, self-knowledge, confidence, empathy with others, and capacity to tolerate conflict. Intelligence and high performance didn’t make the cut.

The book recommends a few simple steps you can take to increase your power:

1. Be visible;

2. Emphasize the aspects you’re good at;

3. Make those in power feel good about themselves;

4. If you must point out a mistake by someone in power, blame the situation or others; and

5. Shower those above with flattery.

If you’re really into learning more about power, check out  The Prince.