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Ward off ‘tall poppy effect’

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The tall poppy effect—when a showy flower with a little too much height gets lopped off—applies to know-it-all managers who upstage the boss.

Think strategically. In your eagerness to prove your value, you may make enemies who want to cut you down to size. Consider that most bosses have allies. If you alienate yours, no other senior manager may trust you.

Take these steps to keep your “poppy head” attached:

Praise the boss. Be specific. Cite a comment the boss made or an action she took that you admire, and let it be known what you learned. If your boss handled an irate customer with finesse, let the division VP know.

As a rule, don’t praise with the boss present. That can look contrived or cause embarrassment.

Maintain deference, even if it kills you. Never contradict or order the boss around.

A chagrined Working Smart reader provides a cautionary tale. He was leading a staff meeting when his boss piped up from the back of the room, “Let’s move on.” The reader shot back, “Gimme another 10 minutes, Frank, to finish this up.” Frank glared at his employee and said, “Your time’s up. Now.”

Disagree diplomatically. Rather than challenging the boss, present your views quietly, in private. Use phrases like “There’s another option we should consider.”

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