Most people stay at a company less than seven years. Most young people stay at a company less than two. So why are companies still set up for people who stay 40 years and climb the ladder? It makes no sense, and frustrates nearly all workers.

Well, all workers who aren’t at the top of the ladder, anyway. Those at the top surely think keeping the ladder there is a good idea, because what was the point of their climb if no one is climbing up after them?

Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent this way of thinking. You can’t change corporate structures and procedures, but you can sidestep them in a way that gets you more interesting work and higher pay without having to trudge up an anachronistic ladder. Here are four:

1. Get on a team.

“Teamwork” is one of the big corporate buzzwords of the last two decades. This is because companies with effective teams do better than companies without them.

The problem is that baby boomers never learned to play on teams. They’re the consummate competitors, born into a demographic in which there were always too many candidates for every position. Boomers are thus keen competitors, measuring each other up for everything. So the data that showed the importance of teams was followed quickly by a round of consulting companies specializing in teaching people how to be in multidisciplinary, non-hierarchical teams.

Then came Generation Y, the best team players in history. They did book reports in teams, went shopping in groups — they’re so team-oriented they even went to the prom in packs.

Put these two groups in a room and tell them to be a team, and you know what happens? The young people run circles around the older ones. The older workers try to establish a hierarchy while the younger ones are oblivious because they’re busy tossing out ideas.

A messy scene, for sure, but this is the way to get heard, and this is the way to shine outside the hierarchy: Get on a team, speak your mind, and implement your ideas — all while the baby boomers are worrying about hierarchy.

2. Job hop.

The rules for when you can be promoted, when your salary can increase, and when you’re eligible for training are all strict and senseless and essentially a waste of your time. Why should you wait for these things when you’re not staying with the company more than a few years anyway?

If your learning curve is flattening because your company can’t promote you to another level, take things into your own hands and go to another company. That is a fast way to give yourself a promotion without having to endure the duress of a corporate structure.

Job-hopping used to be the sign of a disloyal employee, but today we know better. In today’s workplace, frequent job change is a way to stay engaged in your work, and job-hopping among positions you’re good at actually builds your skill set and network much faster than if you stay in one job for a long time. This is why job hopping is a great tool — it can actually provide your career path with a stable, upward slope.

3. Start your own business.

You don’t need a lot of money to start your own company, because most of the tools to open up shop online are free. And in most cases, marketing is cheap and easy if you can establish a viral networking effect among your friends. This is why, in the short time that Generation Y has been in the workforce, they’ve already made a mark as a generation of entrepreneurs.

In addition to being fast and easy to do, starting a company lets you do interesting work you can control without having to wait to get to the top of a corporate ladder. Some people quit their jobs to start a company while others run theirs on the weekend. Increasingly, however, people are running a company from their corporate cubicle.

4. Be nice.

You know who gets promoted the fastest? The person your boss likes the most. So why not spend your time making sure you’re that person? Don’t dish out any excuses about how you won’t kiss up — a kiss-up is someone who tries to be nice but is instead insipid. I’m not recommending that you be insipid.

What I am recommending is that you genuinely try to figure out what your boss needs from you and how to give it to him. Determine how to make extra time in your day to help your boss out, and figure out what she needs help with before she realizes it. And then be there.

Office politics is often a way to sidestep corporate hierarchy, and the great news is that if you’re nice this will be right up your alley. Because office politics is about being nice. And how can you resist training yourself to be nice at work?

What’s the point of baby boomers complaining about Generation Y at work? First of all, it’s a cliché, because people over 40 have been complaining about “young people” since forever.

Even worse, it’s a losing battle. Generation Y is huge. It’s one thing for boomers to verbally squash Generation X — that was no problem. Gen X is tiny and the baby boom was huge.

But in Generation Y, baby boomers have met their match. And in the demographic catfight of the century, Gen X aligns itself with Gen Y over baby boomers, which means that the workplace gripes boomers have about young people are going to be moot in a matter of years.

Generation Which?

So maybe the over-40 crowd should spend less time talking about trying to “bridge the generation gap” — which is really a euphemism for “get Gen Y to be more like us” — and more time celebrating the great things that Generation Y brings to the workplace. Gen Y isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not like they’re about to conform to baby boomer demands.

But before you continue reading, understand that the world doesn’t actually adhere to demographer datelines: The generation you fit into is more a function of the choices you make than the year you were born. So if you want to know where you truly fit along generational lines, take this test.

And if you want to know why baby boomers should ease up on Generation Y, consider the ways that these youngest workers are making life better for everyone:

1. They won’t do work that’s meaningless.

These kids grew up with parents scheduling every minute of their day. They were told TV is bad and reading is good, and are more educated than any generation in history. They just spent 18 years learning to be productive with their time, so they’re not going to settle for any photocopying/coffee stirring job.

But that’s good, because we all want meaning in our jobs, and we all want to understand how we’re contributing to the world at large. Why should anyone have to wait until retirement age to start demanding that?

These days, the workplace can be restructured so that we all do a little coffee stirring in exchange for each of us getting to do some meaningful work. And if work can be in some way meaningful for all of us, then the workplace in general will be a better place to spend our time.

2. They won’t play the face-time game.

We’ve known forever that it isn’t necessary to be in the office from 9 to 5 every day to get work done. But many of us have missed family events only to sit at a desk all day getting pretty much nothing done because of the stress of missing a family event. And there didn’t used to be any option — if you wanted a successful career, you made sure co-workers saw that you were putting in the hours.

Generation Y wants to be judged by the work they do, not the hours they put in. And what could be more fair than this? In fact, a good portion of the workforce has been requesting flextime for decades, but the requests have gone unheeded.

We have Gen Y to thank for forcing the switch, because if Gen Yers can’t leave the building whenever they want, they’ll walk out the door and never come back. Face the truth: Boomers weren’t willing to go that far, but they sure are benefiting from it. Now they have more opportunities for flextime, too.

3. They’re great team players.

If you’ve climbed a corporate ladder your whole career, then it’s probably inconceivable to you that Gen Y doesn’t care about your title. But it’s true — they don’t do rank. Chances are they saw their parents get laid off in the ’80s, so they know how ephemeral that special rung you stand on is and they don’t want to waste time trying to get there.

Generation Y played on soccer teams where everyone participated and everyone was a winner, and they conducted playground politics like diplomats because their parents taught them that there’s no hierarchy and bullies are to be taken down by everyone. And Gen Yers take these values to work — they expect to be a part of a team. Gen Y believes that no matter how much experience an individual has, everyone plays and everyone wins.

Maybe it’s annoying to you that you don’t get to be team captain, or worse, the bully on the playground. But you’ve read the Harvard Business Review’s decades of research on how essential workplace teams are and how older people have little idea how to be good team players, so relax: Gen Y is doing the teamwork for you. In fact, there’s no way to work with Gen Yers except on a team. They go to the prom as a team, so they’re certainly going to go to product reviews as a team.

That makes us all lucky. We don’t need any McKinsey person coming to our company for $10 million a minute telling us how to promote teamwork. We can just follow Generation Y.

4. They have no patience for jerks.

Generation Y changes jobs every two years, typically because the work isn’t a good fit, or the learning curve isn’t steep enough, or they don’t like their co-workers. And Gen Yers will disengage from a jerk before trying to get along with him or her, according to a report by Stan Smith, national director of Next Generation Initiatives at consulting firm Deloitte. They have no desire to bother with somebody they don’t like.

This is really how we all should function. After all, according to research by Stanford professor Bob Sutton, the cost of putting up with a jerk in a company is about $160,000. Moreover, Harvard researcher Tiziana Casciaro found that people hate working with high-performing jerks so much that they would rather work with someone incompetent who’s nice.

Nobody likes having to deal with jerks, but we’ve always believed it was asking too much to have a workplace full of decent people. Generation Y sets a new standard for this, and companies are having to dump jerks quickly or risk losing their ability to recruit and retain Gen Yers.

Don’t Fight the Future

So let’s get off our high horses and stop evaluating whether or not we like working with Generation Y. Its members have incredible leverage in the workplace right now, and they’re not going anywhere.

It’s time to admit that the workplace is changing and that we’re lucky to have a group as optimistic and self-confident as Generation Y leading the way.

When young people talk about wanting faster promotions or higher salaries, it’s a red herring. What young people really want at work is opportunity for personal growth, but they’re scared that you won’t be able to give that to them, so they ask for a promotion instead. The problem is that a title change and four percent raise are not going to matter much to the twentysomething who is not planning to climb your corporate ladder anyway.

What will matter? Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Offer good projects.
It’s not that young people won’t do bottom-rung work. They will. Every twenty-two year old understands that someone has to operate the copy machine. The important thing is that this should not be the whole job. One hour a day of getting coffee is fine if the rest of the day is spent writing feature articles for Vogue. Today the workplace is transactional. There are not long-term promises, there is, What can you do for me today? Tell the young worker what you need done, right now, and tell him or her what growth opportunity you will offer in exchange, right now. We all know that jobs are not long-term engagements anymore, so don’t make the promise of interesting work based on a long-term stay.

2. Flexible hours.
When managers institute a policy for measuring work completed rather than hours at the office, employee turnover decreases by more than 50%. Younger workers are the most indignant when it comes to being required to work 9-5 every day. So instituting flexible hours will have the most impact on this group of employees. Don’t be shy about countering a request for a raise with an offer for flexible work days. In poll after poll young workers say flexibility is more important in a job than money, and if you are in doubt that this applies to your own employees, use employee survey companies to find out.

3. Training.
The average salary increase is four percent. Even if it were double that, you are not going to change anyone’s life with that raise, and they know it. But training and building a new skill set can change someone’s career by opening new doors. So find out what sort of skills your employees are looking to build and help them with that education. Also, keep in mind that training doesn’t have to cost your company a cent. Young people place enormous value on mentoring. They want constant feedback. Offer structured, constant feedback in place of salary increases and promotions. If the mentoring is good, the lack of promotion won’t be a sticking point.

4. Intrapraneurship opportunities.
If you ask young people what their dream job is, most will say entrepreneurship. But most don’t have any idea what sort of company they might start. So, in the mean time, while they’re dreaming up company ideas, they need corporate jobs. You can endear yourself to your young employees by giving them intrapraneurship opportunities – these are startup situations within a larger company that give participants training for when they want to start their own company. You can also help a young person to engage in work by explaining why a given skill will be essential to their future as an entrepreneur. In one of the great ironies of the new generation, if you teach someone skills to run their own company, they are more likely to stay longer at your company.

5. Offer Office Perks
More than ever, younger employees are incentivized and motivated by their office environment. This includes positive relationships with fellow employees, feelings of teamwork and encouragement, and free snacks and beverages. Offering a modern break room with quality, healthy snacks and office coffee services, as well as facilitating positive team interactions are great ways to create a rewarding office environment.

I’m curious to hear from readers. In a workplace where people switch jobs all the time, what are other things that make you stay in a job?

It’s another excerpt from my book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success. This is tip #33 : There Are No Bad Bosses, Only Whiny Employees.

Want to deal with a bad boss? First, stop complaining. Unless your boss breaks the law, you don’t have a bad boss, you have a boss you are managing poorly. Pick on your boss all you want, but if you were taking responsibility for your career, you wouldn’t let your boss’s problems bring you down.

Everyone has something to offer. Find that in your boss and focus on learning everything you can. Or leave. The good news is that in most cases, you don’t have to leave. You just need to manage your relationship with your boss with more empathy, more distance, and more strategy.

My favorite example of a managing a bad boss is one I had at a software company who refused to learn how to use a computer. I conducted most communication with him via phone, and I often played the role of secretary even though I was a vice president. He once said to me, “You’re such a fast typist!” And I thought, “You’re such a complete idiot!”

But in truth, he was not. He was a top negotiator of government contracts. I stepped back and recognized that he was overwhelmed with the prospect of changing the way he had been working for twenty years, and I was in a position to help him. I found that the more dependent he was on me for email, the more I was able to insert myself into high-level deals that he would not otherwise have let me in on. I helped him avoid having to change, and he taught me how to be a dealmaker.

It’s always important to weigh the benefits. A good boss would have learned to type and never would have thought of delegating his typing to a vice president. But I didn’t have a good boss. I had a typical boss – one with poor execution of good intentions. He had knowledge and skills to offer me as long as I could manage our relationship productively. I never expected him to manage the relationship for us, because I wanted to make sure I was getting what I needed out of it.

I could have spent my time complaining. There was a lot to complain about. Instead I always approached him with empathy and knew when to put my two cents in and when to shut up.

Aside from cutting a deal, he didn’t have a lot of management skills, and this gap left more room for me to shine. My solid interpersonal skills helped fill in what he was missing and helped me to get what I wanted: A (reluctant and difficult but ultimately) very useful mentor.

So take another look at the boss you call bad. Think about what motivates him: What is he scared about that you can make easier? What is he lacking that you can compensate for? What does he wish you would do that you don’t? Once you start managing this relationship more skillfully, you will be able to get more from your boss in terms of coaching and support: You’ll be able to tip the scales from the bad boss side to the learning opportunity side.

In fact, you should always hope for a little incompetence on your boss’s part. The hole in his list of talents provides a place for you to shine. The point, after all, and no one shines when they’re complaining.

My book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, is available now!

Here is tip #37 from the book: A Long List of Ways to Dodge Long Hours

It’s hard to leave the office at a reasonable time of day when your workplace culture centers on long hours. But the cost of not leaving work is high: a half-built life and career burnout. Of course, if you never work long hours, you will never appear committed enough to get to the top ranks. So your job is to work enough hours to look committed but not so many hours that you risk your personal life and your ability to succeed over the long haul.

People cannot work full-speed until they die. Pace yourself so you don’t burn out before you reach your potential. But don’t blame your long hours on your boss, your CEO, or your underlings. Someone who does not make a conscious, organized effort to take responsibility for the number of hours they work can be thrown off course by anyone. But the person who systematically follows the steps below will not be thrown off course, even by a workaholic boss in a workaholic industry:

Concentrate on quality of work over quantity. The person who builds a career on doing the most work commits to living on a treadmill. The work will never be done, and you will become known among your co-workers as someone who never turns down an assignment. Read: dumping ground. Quality is what matters. People don’t lose a job for not working unpaid overtime, they lose a job for not performing well at the most important times; and a resume is not a list of hours worked, it is a list of big accomplishments.

Know the goals of your job. You need to know the equivalent of a home run in your job. Get a list of goals from your boss, and understand how they fit into the big picture. Judge if your work is high quality by what people need from you and how they measure success. Be sure to get goals that are quality oriented and not hours oriented. Suggest replacing, “Devote eight hours a week to cold-calling” to “Find six qualified leads in three months.”

Find the back door. Figure out what criteria people use for promotion. It is never only how many hours you work. In many professions you need to work a lot of hours, but there is always a way to be impressive enough to cut back on hours. In the realm of superstars, achievement is based on quality over quantity. Figure out how to turn out extremely impressive work so that you can get away with fewer hours. For example, if you’re a lawyer, you could pick up one, very important client for the firm, and then cut back a little on your hours.

Refuse bad assignments. Figure out what matters, and spend your time on that. Once you have clear short-term and long-term goals, it’s easy to spot the person you don’t need to impress, the project that will never hit your resume, or the hours worked that no one will notice.

Say no. Constantly. The best way to say no is to tell people what is most important on your plate so they see that, for you, they are a low priority. Prioritizing is a way to help your company, your boss, and yourself. No one can fault your for that.

Go public. Tell people about your schedule ahead of time. For example, “I have Portuguese lessons on Thursdays at 7 p.m. The class is important to me.” When you plan a vacation, announce it early and talk about it a lot. The more people know about how much you have been preparing and anticipating your trip the less likely people will be to ask you to cancel it.

Find a silent mentor. Look for someone who is respected but does not work insane hours. This will take careful hunting because this person is not likely to be obvious about it. Watch him from afar and figure out how he operates. Few people will want to mentor you in the art of dodging work — it’s bad for one’s image. But you could enlist the person to help you in other areas and hope he decides to help you in the workload area as well.

Know your boss’s goals. Your best tool for saying no to a project is reminding your boss what her goals are. If she cannot keep track of her own goals, help her. Because if you worm your way out of work that doesn’t matter to her, so that you can do work that does matter to her, she is more likely to back you up. Also your boss will protect you from assignments from other people if you show her how the other peoples’ work affects your boss’s goals.

Take control of what you can. Even small efforts at control add up to a lot, and best of all, they usually go unnoticed by others. For example, refuse to make meetings on Monday and you are less likely to have to prepare for meetings on the weekend. Refuse meetings after 4:30 p.m. and you are less likely to miss dinner at home. Ignore your phone while you write your weekly report and you’re less likely to stay late to finish it. You don’t need to tell people: “My policy is no meetings at x time.” Just say you’re already booked and suggest another time. You can’t do this every meeting, but you can do it enough to make a difference in your life.

Know your own boundaries. “Wanting to work fewer hours” is too vague a goal because you won’t know which hours to protect. Try getting home by 7 p.m., not working weekends, or leaving for two hours in the middle of the day to lift weights. These are concrete goals for cutting back hours.

Create something important outside of work. If you don’t create a life outside of work that is joyful and engaging then you won’t feel a huge need to leave work. And if you don’t project a passion for life outside of work then no one will think twice about asking you to live at work. So get some passion in your personal life. If you can’t think of anything, start trying stuff: Snowboarding, pottery, speed dating. The only way to discover new aspects of yourself is to give them new opportunities to come out.

Be brave. Brave people can say no when someone is pushing hard, and brave people can go home when other people are working late. The bravery comes from trusting yourself to find the most important work and to do it better than anyone else. But sometimes, the bravest thing to do is leave. Some industries, for example coding video games, or being a low-level analyst at an investment bank, are so entrenched in the idea that workers have no lives that you will find yourself battling constantly to get respect for your personal life. In some cases, you are better off changing industries, or at least changing companies.

My book, Brazen Careerist: The New Rules for Success, is shipping from Amazon!

Here is tip #21 from the book: Mud Slinging Means You’re Losing Ground

If you want people to like you, give them compliments. I know, that sounds like I’m telling you to brownnose. Instead, I’m telling you to find genuine ways to compliment people, which requires spending a lot of time looking for the good in people.

The difference between a genuine compliment and a desperate brownnosing attempt is empathy and insight, according to Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Graduate School of Education psychologists and co-authors of How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation.

If you understand what worries someone, and what he is trying hardest to achieve personally, then you will easily spot opportunities for praise. Don’t just say “good job” for the sake of it. In fact, don’t just say “good job.” The most effective compliments are very specific. And creative words are more memorable than standard words, according to Mark Knapp, communications professor at University of Texas. The most common types of praise are about possessions “Nice car” or about actions “Great shot.”

Praise of character is the most rare and most memorable praise of all. But it’s also the most difficult because it requires you to understand the person you’re praising and be thoughtful about how you talk to them. For example, “I appreciated the compassion you showed for the team when you were canceling the project.”

To increase the weight of your compliments, establish yourself as a trusted resource. This means you need to be able to give people bad news as well as good news. I will never forget the employee who told me, “You know how everyone laughs at your jokes at the staff meeting? Well, the jokes are not that funny, but since all those people report to you, they laugh. You should stop with the jokes.”

I was crushed to hear that I was not funny. But it would have been worse if I had been allowed to go on and on. (Though sometimes I tell myself that I really was funny and that particular employee just didn’t get my humor.) Still, this person’s subsequent compliments meant more to me because I knew she was honest.

Complimenting your boss is an important part of building a good relationship. Don’t be shy because you have less experience. In fact, powerful people think that people who praise them are smarter and more likeable than those who don’t, according to Knapp. On top of that, powerful people receive fewer compliments than the rest of us.

I never knew how important it is to compliment a boss until I complimented mine, mostly by accident. My boss gave a speech packed with bad news to employees, and I knew it had been hard on him. So after the meeting, I stopped by his office to tell him privately, “You delivered the bad news really well. People were shocked, but they listened to you, and you made them hopeful.”

His face brightened, and he said, in a surprised voice, “Really?”

I realized immediately how much my input had meant to him. How surprised he was to know I thought he did well and how much he respected my assessment. It seemed pathetic, really. I had thought he was a more confident guy than that. But that’s the thing about complimenting your boss: It’s disarming and makes your boss think of you as an equal.

To make a genuine connection, give genuine compliments, but balance them with insightful criticism. With the right balance people will view you as a smarter person and they’ll take all your comments more seriously.

So concentrate on the good in people, and compliment it throughout the day, you just might feel like you’re actually surrounded by kind, competent, and interesting people. And the research shows that they will find you to be more kind and competent as well.

One of the biggest complaints I hear from employees is that no one is listening to their ideas. In a large part this is not because the ideas are bad, but becuse most employees don’t sell their ideas to their company properly.

Selling an idea to an organization requires that you understand how the decision makers operate, then you cater your idea to the arcane decision-making process. So stop complaining about office politics and start leveraging them to sell your ideas.

A good example of how to sell an idea to an organization is this ad campaign run by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Whether or not you agree with the politics of the Center for Constitutional Rights, their approach is interesting:

“America’s leading group of constitutional attorneys present the case for impeachment of George W. Bush exactly as it could be presented by the House of Representatives to the U.S. Senate. Clearly and concisely, they delineate the four strongest charges against the president, citing precedence and evidence that you don’t have to be an attorney to comprehend.”

What is notable here is that the organization is trying to sell its idea by doing the work of the decision makers — in this case, the House of Representatives. This is the kind of campaigning you should do in your own organization. When you have an idea, sell from the perspective of the people who can make or break your outcome. Think about what obstacles would stand in the way for the decision maker, and then you do the work of making a plan to overcome them.

It is not easy to learn how to sell to an organization. Jeff Snipes, CEO of Ninth House, an online training company, told me that one of their most popular types of training is how to navigate the corporate process. “People need to learn to take an innovative idea and build a business plan around it.”

Snipes talked about skills to master in order to get your ideas implemented, and, no surprise, it’s all about emotional intelligence:

1. Solve a problem
The person who needs to give you approval has issues of her own. Everyone does. Getting someone to pay attention to your ideas is a sales issue. You are selling your idea. And the only way to sell something to someone is to solve a problem for them. You need to really understand the needs of the person you are trying to get approval from. And if you cannot figure out how you are helping that person, then you can’t really sell your idea to her.

2. Package your idea
You’ll get higher level people involved if your idea is aligned with the strategic ideas of the organization. In order to get people to buy in to your idea, you have to know what ideas they are focusing on themselves. You need to show them that you are presenting a plan to further their strategic goals.

3. Understand funding processes
Each organization has a different system for funding projects. But it’s safe to say that every system is arcane in its own way. You need to ask a lot of people in a lot of departments to find out the best way to get funding for your idea. If you rely on someone else to get funding, then you run the risk of not getting approval, because someone doesn’t want to deal with the financial implications of your idea. Taking care of a lot of this legwork and office politics yourself can go a long way toward getting approval.

While every company is different, the big-picture strategy for selling an idea is the same for most companies; A lot of rules hold true wherever you go. And even if you don’t end up getting someone to implement your idea, the experience of trying to sell an idea through a large organization is good experience in and of itself.

Sales is hard, and selling ideas is harder. But, like most things in life, you get good at it by trying and learning from failures. So try it.

More money is good, right? You’re going to be doing your job anyway, so you might as well ask to get paid more for doing it.

But you actually have to do a lot of preparation in order to ask for a raise effectively. The most obvious preparation is to find out what everyone else is getting paid for what you do. A recent New York Times story gives a good overview of online resources for salary comparisons.

Here are five other things you can do to get a salary increase:

1. Understand your boss’s perspective.
This is not a moment of truth, it’s a moment of negotiation. You convince your boss you’re worth more and your boss convinces you he or she is fair, and you reach some sort of compromise that makes everyone happy.

So be reasonable in your approach. You don’t deserve a raise just because you’ve been doing your job well for x number of months. It’s your job to do your job well — that’s why you were hired. You need to show that you’re doing more than you were hired to do, or that you’re doing different work that’s typically paid at a higher rate.
Gather as much information about your boss’s perspective as possible in order to form your strongest negotiating position. Consider this list of 10 things bosses hate most about employees.

2. Expand your job duties.
Get really good at your job immediately so that you can take on more responsibility in another job, in another capacity. Look around for something more to do, and figure out how to do it. Then tell your boss you’re doing more than one job and you want to be paid extra for doing the other job you’ve already been doing.

If you think your boss will balk at the idea of you taking on more responsibility, start looking like your current job is under control. One way to do this is to have a completely clean desk. A clean desk says, “I’m totally on top of my workload. Please give me more.” A cluttered desk says, “Help. I’m drowning.”

(I’m not making this stuff up — researchers actually study offices. Here’s a summary of why you should have a clean desk.)

3. Consistently over-deliver.
Even during a salary freeze there’s always more money for superstars, because losing a superstar costs a company a lot of money. So getting a raise is about conveying to the office that you’re a superstar. This could be in the form of taking on more areas of responsibility, but it could also be in the form of exceeding expectations in a very obvious way.

Exceeding expectations is something that must be announced. If you finish your project, that’s what people will understand. If you finish your project with incredible results, you need to remind everyone what the expectations were and what you delivered. If you don’t toot your horn, no one else will. A hallmark of a superstar is they know how to toot their horn with out being annoying.

Superstars aren’t overnight sensations — they work at it. So start performing like a superstar six months before you want to ask for a raise.

4. Get a mentor.
Employees who have mentors are twice as likely to be promoted as those who don’t, according to Ellen Fagenson Eland, a professor at George Mason University. A mentor can help you position yourself, time and again, to receive a raise.

An effective mentor helps you see your path in a way that maximizes your talents and stays consistent with your goals for life. This isn’t small task, and almost all successful people say they have more than one mentor. But start with one, because that will significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll get the raise you’re going to ask for.

Unfortunately, for some people finding a mentor is almost as difficult as asking for a raise. So here are seven ways to find and keep a mentor.

5. Think in non-financial terms.
If more money isn’t happening for you, try asking for something else. Telecommuting, a job for your spouse, extra vacation time, training, even relocation to a company branch in a city with a lower cost of living — these are all things that are worth a lot of money to you, but look a lot less expensive than a salary increase in a company’s budget. So non-financial rewards are a good place to compromise in salary negotiations.

Also, you can turn these benefits to cash next time you change jobs. When you negotiate salary at your next company and they ask you how much you made in your last job, add up all the benefits and include them in the number you give. Some people’s benefits total up to 30 percent of their salary.

If the shy ones among you are thinking this isn’t a fair negotiating tactic, get that thought out of your head. Even CareerHub, a group blog of career coaches, recommends that you include benefits in the total calculation of your salary next time you negotiate.

If none of these steps work, try not to be so obsessed with getting a raise. Think about it — most raises amount to about 4 percent of your salary. That’s nothing. Even if you earn six figures, 4 percent isn’t going to be life-altering.

There are so many more things you can ask for that will actually improve your life, like training in a skill area you’re interested in, or the ability to telecommute a few days a week.

Try focusing on the things that really matter to you instead of the dollar amount attached to your title. You may find that your salary will increase as a natural offshoot of the passion you develop for your work.


Here’s what a bad boss is: Someone who lies, cheats, steals, or touches you after you’ve told him, in writing, not to. If you have one of these bosses, quit complaining and start applying for other jobs.

All other bosses aren’t truly bad — you’re just bad at managing them.

A Boss-Management Decalogue

One of the most important parts of being competent at work is managing up: Making sure you give your boss what he or she needs, and then getting what you need in return. That’s no one’s responsibility but your own.

Here are 10 ways to manage your boss:

1. Understand the person you’re dealing with.

Is she detail-oriented? Give her detailed reports. Is she a big-picture thinker? Tell her your big ideas. Does he like voicemail? Then leave some, even if you hate using it.

Understand her personality strengths and weaknesses, because this is usually the path toward forging a relationship. If you know her weaknesses, you can have empathy for her shortcomings instead of impatience. And whatever you feel will show, so figure out how to feel compassion for your boss, or you’ll get nowhere with her.

2. Ask for your quarterly goals, in writing.

If you don’t have goals, how can you even know what your job is? And if you don’t know what your job is, you can be sure you won’t make your boss happy.

If your boss does not know your goals either, write your own. Create a fun job for yourself that will be an integral part of the company’s strategy. If your boss doesn’t like the goals you create, she’ll suddenly be able to come up with them herself.

3. Know your boss’s biggest worries, and help him address them.

Why are you working on projects your boss doesn’t care about? Your job is to make your boss love you so he helps you get the skills you need to grow in your career.

If you have stuff on your plate that doesn’t matter, do it fast, and don’t worry about being judged on the quality of this work because your boss doesn’t care. Focus on the stuff that matters to your boss, because that’s what will make your boss love you.

4. Look at your boss’s weaknesses as opportunities.

If your boss is great at project management, then surely she doesn’t need you to do that. Be great at the stuff your boss is terrible at — like people management, maybe — and help your boss rally her troops. If she’s great at sales but hates the detailed reporting, get great at the reporting and offer to do all the stuff she hates to do.

If your boss is terrible at managing meetings, instead of complaining about it, volunteer to do the brunt of the organizing for him. He’ll appreciate that way more than you helping with stuff he doesn’t worry about.

5. Focus on your own needs by focusing on your boss’s needs.

You and your boss are a team. You make your boss look great in the organization and in the world, and your boss will help you grow and meet your own goals.

To do this, you need to focus more on helping your boss and less on doing work you love. The first act begets the second: A boss who feels indebted to you will give you what you want.

6. See the good in people.

Don’t tell me your boss doesn’t care about you, or that he’s only concerned with the bottom line. It’s not humanly possible for your boss to not care about you if you understand him, are there for him, support him, and genuinely care.

You have to be authentic with your boss to develop a real relationship. Figure out how to care about him deeply — as a person whom you can help. If you can’t do this for your boss, how can you expect it from him?

7. Get a list of your boss’s priorities.

When you have too much work, this allows you to tell your boss that you can’t do x, y, and z because they’re not high enough priorities to him. In other words, you can say, “I could do x, but you said a, b, and c are very important to you, and I don’t want to compromise those.”

This is a great way of saying “no” to work in a way that makes your boss feel very respected, understood, and taken care of.

8. Prioritize your own work in terms of what matters to your boss.

Fit your high-priority items into a reasonable schedule, and don’t do low-priority items until the important stuff is done. This allows you to always deliver on what matters to your boss.

Keeping your boss happy means being a high performer. People don’t care if you perform well on stuff that doesn’t matter to them, so don’t.

9. Give weekly updates.

It doesn’t matter if your boss asks for them or not. This is a team report, for you and your boss; you’re the team, working on your boss’s priorities.

This is when you tell your boss how much you’ve accomplished that will help her. Tell her things you see that might be roadblocks for her, and how you can help her fix them in the next week. Also tell her what you’re planning to do that’s extremely important to her so she’s sure not to ask you to do unimportant work over the next week.

10. Don’t get stuck on personality types.

We each have preferences for the people we hang out with. But the most successful people can get along with anyone. If you can’t get along with the type of person your boss is, it’s your shortcoming, not his.

Read some psychology books about social monitors, and how we can teach ourselves to authentically connect with anyone by practicing empathy. And then do it. After all, why is it your boss’s job to adjust to you? You’re the one with the problem.

The Choice Is Yours

The bottom line: Take responsibility for yourself. No one forces you to have the job you have. You could leave anytime

If you’re not going to leave, then you’re choosing the boss you have. And since you chose your boss, start making her into a good one. Otherwise, why did you choose her?

I know, I know, I spent a whole post ranting about how almost everyone should not be video blogging. So it’s surprising to hear that I’m launching Bruce’s video blog here, right?

The reason I love Bruce’s video blog is that he is a great speaker, and he has great ideas, and he gets them out really fast, which is important because I don’t have a lot of patience to watch video online.

The first time I heard of Bruce was when he published the book, Managing Generation X. He was the first person to say, Hey, we’re not like the baby boomers. We’re not going to be able to work with you if you don’t start treating us differently. I was so excited to buy his book. So excited that someone had identified what I was feeling.

Bruce still has a great sense about what is coming next in the work world, and his forthcoming book, It's Okay to Be the Boss, is about management. Specifically, how to be a competent manager in the new workplace. Bruce’s bottom line is that management isn’t just a title, it’s an obligation you have to the people who report to you.

He focuses on how to be a good manager when the most junior employee in the company has no problem asking for Thursdays off to go to karate class. He gives tips on what to do when you become the manager of your friend. And he shows everyone, even non-managers, how to tell your boss how to manage you more effectively.

So, here’s the first installment of what I expect will become a regular feature on Brazen Careerist. Let me know what you think:


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