A broad study exploring the benefits males receive from having male supervisors, revealed a unique workplace engagement tactic – smoking.
Yes, women can add another potential reason behind their slow promotion rates. This study by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals that male smokers when supervised by male managers who also smoke, are promoted faster than non-smokers.
The habit of smoking with bosses has resulted in many men gaining advantages over non-smokers in the workplace.
This study echoes the fact that we all know – people in positions of power tend to favor understudies who are similar to themselves. So, is the ladder to promotions a smokers-only space? If so, then it’s a deadly one.
- Cigarette smoke contains radioactive substances like lead and polonium that attach themselves to the tar that builds in the lungs of smokers. As a smoker is building up his rapport with his boss, both of them are potentially inching closer towards lung cancer.
- Over 30% of all cancer-related deaths and 90% of all lung cancer-related deaths are linked to smoking. Cancer is a disease dominated by smokers and people are pretty aware of that.
Given that over 41,000 non-smokers die per year because of secondhand smoke inhalation, it’s surprising that non-smoking employees don’t unionize against the smokers. Something like this happened in Japan in 2019.
A Japanese marketing firm called Piala Inc. took this anti-smoking approach but in a unique way. The company recognized how non-smoking employees’ productivity was being affected by smoke breaks for the smokers.
The company paid attention to the complaints of the non-smoking employees who were feeling hard done by the extra amount of time they spent working throughout the year. Piala’s management team assessed these claims and found that employees who took frequent cigarette breaks spent at least 15 minutes every day away from their workspaces.
The company’s non-smoking staff were granted an additional six days off annually to make up for the time their contemporaries would spend smoking. This policy of not penalizing the smokers or compelling them to quit subtly exposed a glaring fact – you’re not optimizing your productivity if you spend fifteen to twenty minutes everyday entertaining a habit.
Smoking is a habit that drains your productivity, health, and quite possibly your life. If smoke sessions are good engagement tools, then workplace engagement isn’t worth the effort. In my experience, managers who don’t indulge in their employees’ habits, are able to make better decisions than those who spend their time in smoking rooms.
My viewpoint may be biased as I have worked under bosses who loved smoking with my peers. As one of the few non-smokers in my workplace, those private smoking sessions felt very irritating. But that didn’t stop me from impressing my supervisors.
Building Relationships with Bosses
While all workplace relationships matter, the one with your immediate supervisor stands out, especially in the earlier stages a career. After all, bosses are the ones who judge you, and represent you to the people leading the organization.
In the executive meetings, you want your boss to promote you, because of your talent and potential. If your boss is answerable to executives, he or she won’t pick a dud whose only quality is the ability to come up with witty chat-up lines in the smoking rooms. They want to promote employees who make them look good – irrespective of their break-time habits.
So, to build relationships with bosses, employees must view their potential as their bosses’ potential. Their own advancement and rewards are down to the employees’ ability to unleash their potential and talent. Impressing bosses in memorable ways with verifiable work is key to building trust. Once they trust you, your development and success will mean something for them.
Whether you’re in the smoking room or not, your boss will be looking out for you for the value you add to the organization.
Although some bosses do prefer promoting progenies who indulge in mutual habits, at the end of the day, no boss can avoid –
- A top performer.
- Someone they can trust in crunch situations.
- An employee with great growth potential.
- To become such an employee, you must master the art of sensing situations.
Tip #1 – Situation Sensing
Situation sensing is the critical skill of figuring out what’s expected of you in certain situations and acting accordingly. All of us have situation sensing skills. That’s why we used to put our toys back in place when our parents came home from work.
However, the employees who unwaveringly act as per situational workplace demands have a better chance of success. Merely sensing the high-stakes demands, the agendas, and the style of your boss isn’t enough.
You need to address these unique demands in appropriate and timely ways. For instance, if one day your boss compliments you for arriving at work early, he or she will be subconsciously expecting to see you at the same time the next day.
Sensing this situational demand and arriving early can make a huge difference in your relationship with your boss. That’s why I used to refer to ‘situation sensing’ as ‘boss sensing’ earlier in my career.
Advantages of Situation Sensing
In my experience, my ‘boss sensing’ skills have helped me at all stages of my career. As I progressed upwards in past organizations, my situation sensing skills needed upgrades and expansions. At the director level, I had to sense the unsaid needs of my company’s investors.
These skills helped me know unique details about the key players in my company’s hierarchy.
At the top levels, sensing what your boss or board of directors want isn’t enough. You also have to establish subtle relationships with investors, regulatory agents, government figures, union leaders, etc. So, ‘boss sensing’ is a skill that will reap countless rewards if you start cultivating it now.
Even a week of honing sensing skills can give an employee these clear advantages –
- Adaptive Edge – As you consciously try to better your ‘boss sensing’ skills, you’ll notice you’re naturally responding to high-priority tasks, copying your boss’s work style, being asked to carry out important tasks by other members of the workforce, and displaying behaviors that your boss highly values.
- Catching the Boss’s Eye – Once you start repeating certain positive habits and traits, your boss will see this skill as an indicator of high-potential talent. Sure, adaptivity and eagerness to impress aren’t the only indicators of high-potential talent but they’re just as important as completing your work in time.
If your situation sensing brain tells you to change your ways of working, do it. As long as you’re not acting like a sycophant, kowtowing to all of your boss’s demands, don’t be afraid to change.
However, bad or unethical bosses are known for exploiting over-eager employees. So, make sure your ‘boss sensing’ skills aren’t being misperceived as a vulnerability by your peers and bosses. For instance, if your boss says: “These are the qualities that make effective managers,” don’t throw your own views into the garbage bogs.
It may be hard to persuade a boss who is firmly entrenched in certain beliefs about other perspectives on management. So, a good employee should detect and mirror the qualities the boss wants from an employee. But he or she shouldn’t let go of personal beliefs and ideas during the process.
Tip #2 – ‘Boss Sensing’ is Easy
‘Boss sensing’ boils down to these simple tasks –
- Sensing the opportunities to take work off your boss’s schedule.
- Prioritizing the tasks that help drive your boss’s success.
- Taking on every task as if you are an executive of the company.
- Demonstrating initiative beyond expectations whenever there’s an opportunity.
The last of these tasks is the most important. Once you demonstrate initiative for tasks that aren’t expected of you, you get the eyeballs rolling. To appear special, you’ll have to sense your boss’s expectations around responsibilities and seize the moment.
Sometimes, taking the initiative to merely ask your boss about additional work goes a long way. However, never fall into the dilemma of over-commitment. Bear in mind – there are limits to your time and energy. The heavier your workload, the less likely you are to produce high-quality output. So, the way in which you take up tasks and responsibilities has to be extremely strategic.
An easy way of avoiding these dilemmas is allocating your time to core essential tasks. Ask yourself what your boss’s highest-priority projects are and dedicate yourself to those tasks. Once you start taking on a broad range of responsibilities that your boss values highly, you’ll establish a brand for yourself.
Tip #3 – Creating a Brand
You ever face a problem and think, “Mr. X. would have been perfect for this job.” You want to be Mr. X. whose presence is felt the most when he is not present. Professionals like Mr. X. have certain “signature moves” that they use to create a long list of distinguished career accomplishments. These “signature moves” can become your identity.
The more you observe the leaders in your organization, the more relevant “signature moves” you can create. For instance, at one of my earlier jobs, certain software applications would fail from time to time. No one paid notice to this persistent problem.
One day, I picked up the phone, called the software company, and discovered the root of the problem all on my own. It turns out certain files on the platform don’t open when a third-party anti-virus program is activated.
Soon enough, I was at every employee’s desk, helping them with their software glitches, including my boss. Very soon, I became the ‘go-to’ tech guy on my floor. Although my technical abilities were just as limited as all my coworkers, I had sensed a need and put in the effort to address it.
Once you start amassing signature qualities, your value at the organization automatically increases. The two-minute IT repair sessions at your boss’s desk will turn into two-hour long strategic business discussions very quickly.
Tip # 4 – Differentiating High-Level Performances and Workaholism
According to the Pareto Principle, 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes. This principle was originally developed to illustrate the imbalance of land proprietorship in Italy, it can also be used to illustrate the importance of smart work.
The U.S. has one of the highest rates of employees working over 50 hours a week. However, the percentage of “engaged” workers in the country is still only 35% according to Gallup. 13% of US workers even admit to feeling “actively disengaged” at their “miserable” workplaces. The point I’m trying to make is that driving on the road of workaholism or over-working doesn’t necessarily lead to success.
In fact, employees who work the greatest number of hours desire to work less in the long run. You may be addicted to your work now but when you won’t be, day to day responsibilities will start feeling like burdens. So, differentiating high-level performances and workaholism is vital. You don’t need to do “donkey work” to climb up the ladder of your organization.
For instance, let’s say you are working as a production line manager. Your core task is ensuring all production lines manufacture chocolate chip cookies on time. What will you do when you have to deliver a bigger than anticipated order to a long-term customer?
A workaholic will compel everyone in the workforce to work twice as hard for a week. A smart performer will reprioritize the schedule, rotate certain shifts, spread the hours evenly across the week, and get the job done for the customer while ensuring none of the employees feel overworked. After all, when returning operations to normal production schedules, no employee should feel fatigued, including the manager.
Tip #5 – Differentiating Core Responsibilities from ‘Signature Moves’
Another way of avoiding overworking is differentiating your core responsibilities from your ‘signature moves’ and carrying out both in a balanced manner. Core responsibilities are routine and repeatable. As a worker, you have to continuously address these responsibilities without fail. Some common core responsibilities include –
- Executing all existing processes or programs.
- Creating a history of consistent execution with basic responsibilities.
- Maintaining and building relationships with clients, providers, and stakeholders of the company.
- Consistent delivery of reports, analyses, etc.
- Constant reflections of day-to-day duties followed by nonstop improvement efforts.
- Maintaining a steady level of engagement and productivity.
- Executing core responsibilities as per predetermined targets.
Once you set a standard while carrying out a core responsibility, you shouldn’t waver from that standard. Signature moves on the other hand are slightly different. Some common aspects of ‘signature moves’ include –
- Carrying out tasks that directly impact the company’s brand or your boss’s reputation.
- Executing highly visible tasks like calling clients to ask them whether they feel satisfied.
- Guiding a team through transformations. For instance, helping the workforce settle into a new office location.
- Leading major changes for the company. For instance, mergers or reorganization efforts.
- Addressing difficult challenges that other employees are failing to address. Always strive to be the first one to respond to or uncover a significant crisis.
- Executing new product launches or workplace program transformations.
- Coming up with unique or innovative solutions for common problems.
- Focusing on the boss’s key priorities.
Signature moves should be designed to boost your career legacy. These are highly visible jobs that help the organization and the boss via measurable outcomes. If you want a high-potential status, getting into a habit of carrying out these ‘signature moves’ on top of achieving your core objectives is far better than picking up the habit of smoking.
Tip #6 – Habits Other Than Smoking That You Should Develop
Here are some habits that are guaranteed to further your career ambitions (and not destroy your lungs) –
- Including development-oriented activities into your daily schedule.
- Finding small opportunities to coach or mentor junior employees.
- Opening up to constructive feedback. Ask your boss for reviews/feedback and act on those comments.
- Reveal your shortcomings at the workplace; ask your boss to teach you somethings. Don’t be a dud, be selectively vulnerable. Recognize tasks that your boss is good at and ask him or her to explain them to you.
- Frequently gauge how much progress you’ve made.
- Act as if you’re always in the spotlight. All high-potential employees are. Act your role and work as if your boss is always watching. Small gestures and behaviors matter a lot.
- Focus on your future steps. Don’t pat yourself on the back too much. Don’t even expect your boss to see you differently. Keep focusing on new opportunities to create and hone your ‘signature moves.’
Focusing your attention on your team’s growth and your personal growth is much more important than focusing on relationship building practices. If you cultivate these aforementioned habits, your boss will reach out to you. Instead of offering to light his cigarette, ask him what task you can take off his plate for the day. Trust me, the latter offer is much better.