All managers have one, shared goal: Get a promotion. But many times, the job of a manger is so multifaceted and detail-laden that the manager loses site of that big picture. Here are five jobs of a manager that are often lost in the muddle of managing smaller, day-to-day issues.

1. Manage conflict
Avoiding conflict is for people who want to lay low and move up by dint of inertia. This plan will take you only so far. At some point you have to meet conflict head on and show that you can resolve it. Think about this: At the highest levels of management, leaders are essentially gathering competing opinions from the very informed and making a decision based on conflicting recommendations. Conflict at your level, e.g. “Karen is late on every project and I don't want to work with her on the next one,” is preparation for the next level. Don't shrink from this stepping-stone by hiding in the sand until the conflict resolves itself. Managing conflict allows you to become an arbitrator and negotiator, and most of all, someone who has developed good judgment on hard calls.

2. Manage your personal life.
You are kidding yourself if you think people don't see what's going on with you at home. Are you getting drunk every night? Are your finances a mess? You might live a fantasy that you are hiding bad behavior from co-workers, but stress shows up in nonverbal, unexpected ways that make people uncomfortable to be with you and worried about your competence. People who seem to have shaky lives at home seem like time bombs at work. So instead of trying to hide your personal life, redirect that energy toward improving your personal life. You might not have as much focus for work in the short term, but in the long term you'll be in better shape to manage effectively.

3. Manage hearts and minds
Sure, you need to manage budgets, schedules, and strategy. But if you don't have peoples' hearts on your side, your team won't over perform for you. The easiest way to win the hearts of your team members is to genuinely care about them. You can't fake this. So if you don't genuinely care about people who work for you, ask yourself why you are in management. (There are plenty of big, rewarding careers that don't include management.) Management is about helping people to be their best. Once you genuinely care about people, you will be able to find out what excites them, and you will help them reach their goals at work. Which, invariably, will shine favorably on your own workplace performance.

4. Manage diversity'
Diversity is not popular right now, when so many people worry about their job going overseas. But study after study shows that diverse teams perform better than homogenous teams. And besides, diversity doesn't mean hiring someone in Mumbai. Managing diversity starts by hiring someone who is not like everyone else on your team. Then do it again and again and find a way to make the team gel. Diverse teams are more difficult to manage — there are more opinions, more preconceptions, more quirks, and more conflicts. But top managers can leverage these difficulties as a means to establish more innovative planning. After all, no one became great by surrounding themselves with people who think like everyone else.

5. Manage a successor
If you're doing a good job, it's hard to convince your boss to promote you; he has no idea who will take your place, and he risks his own job performance by letting you replace yourself with someone who might not be as capable. Instead, train someone in-house to take over your job as soon as you have a handle on it yourself. The person should be practically doing your job so that you can find areas where you can take on more responsibility before you ask for a promotion. Managing a successor allows you to first lead without the title, and then to ask for the new title. And more money.

Even though I rarely tell you about the letters I receive from readers, I do receive a lot of mail. Almost all of it is thoughtful and intelligent, and the mail does influence what I choose to write about. Many times I answer questions directly, but today I'm going to answer a reader email in the column. My hope is that if you see how I answer a question, then you can answer your own questions using a very basic but tried-and-true Penelope formula.

The woman, I'll call her Darcy, wrote that she is a PhD who was hired to do research and present numbers to the Board of her company. The letter is much longer than that one sentence, but the basic point is that the board was getting inaccurate numbers from a lesser-qualified person so the board hired a PhD to make sure the information was completely accurate. Fair enough, especially in the wake of Enron and Aon and all the other number-hiding companies that crashed in recent history.

The problem is that, according to Darcy, the board is frustrated by Darcy's inability to come up with a way to present the numbers that the board likes. And Darcy is frustrated by the board's need to have numbers that are not exactly what she comes up with. After all, wasn't she hired to come up with the truth?

Here is some insight into how Penelope thinks: I look at the letter and say to myself, why is this Darcy's fault? You might think, Penelope you are so unreasonable to always blame the letter-writer. But face reality: You are not going to make a board change. You're not going to make a boss change. The people who write letters to me are generally having trouble with people who are not going to change. So there's no point in saying, “Wow, you sure do work with difficult people. Sorry. Love, Penelope.” Or, worse yet, saying, “Yes. This is a very bad situation. You should quit. That'll really teach your company a lesson. Good luck with unemployment. Love, Penelope.”

The best advice I can give is how the person with the problem can solve the problem herself. In the case of Darcy, she needs to recognize that she has an impossible job. There's a reason why very few Ph.Ds are CEOs. The former is all about detail and accuracy. The latter is all about big-picture and spin. Not that both titles don't require big picture AND accuracy, but very few people can focus on big picture and accuracy at the same time.

Probably, Darcy is never going to be able to re-jigger numbers for public relations spin. My first advice would be for her to extract herself from the spin part of the job — give the numbers to a public relations person before the numbers go to the board, for example. But maybe Darcy really wants to step up and deliver the numbers in a way that the board wants. In truth, people who can juggle details and big-picture go very far in corporate life. So maybe Darcy can do this, but then she needs to stop complaining about what the board wants, and learn to deliver it. Let the board decide if it's proper or not. (Note to ethics mavens: Darcy is definitely at the beginning of her career and in no position to be questioning her board's ethics. She would be ignored and then fired.)

But let's take a step back. Because almost all of my “What should I do?” emails from readers are like this one. When you have a problem with how other people in the office are treating you, figure out how you can change. When you have a problem with how people want you to do your job, change your approach, or change your job description, but don't blame someone else for what they want. This is not going to get you anywhere.

People in corporate life get promoted for their ability to take control of a problem and solve it. If you cannot take control of problems within your own job, you are not going to persuade people you can take care of corporate problems. So on some level, you have to look at your problems like I would look at your problems: Blame yourself first.

Handwriting analysis is no longer for freaks and psychics. Multinational companies hire handwriting analysts to understand personality traits of prospective job candidates. Character traits that matter during the hiring process — creativity, self-esteem, leadership, and optimism, for example — are revealed in one's handwriting.

You should learn how to analyze your co-workers' handwriting and your own to give yourself an edge at work. I have found that the basics of analysis are quick and easy to learn. Getting along with other people and knowing yourself are essential pieces to career success, and analyzing peoples' handwriting can help you speed up the process. Here are some examples:

Get along with people better
Knowing someone's personality traits is invaluable for collaborating with and motivating that person. Depending on that person to tell you his or her own traits is risky. Most people don't know themselves well enough; even focus group leaders don't bother to ask people directly what they like anymore.

Fortunately, with very little expertise, you can use handwriting to evaluate someone's dominant traits. For example, someone with a signature that leaves a lot of space between first and last names is not going to be an intimate, emotional person, so you can stop trying to forge that kind of relationship. If the first and last names overlap, that person is relationship-oriented and probably wants more than long-distance management from you.

Make better career choices
You can also use handwriting analysis to gauge your own dominant traits. Then you can figure out which career is best for the type of person you are.

For example, you can learn what sort of handwriting is appropriate for the job you aim for, and compare your own handwriting to that standard. Angular is appropriate for a programmer and inappropriate for a sales person. Perfect, schoolteacher writing reveals the need to establish order and would be a bad sign if you aspired to the freethinking required of an inventor.

Handwriting really does reflect your true self. So if you discover your penmanship does not reflect traits necessary for the career you have in mind, ask yourself if you are even in the right field.

Improve your image
Handwriting is like clothing. Your audience cannot help but evaluate your message by what it looks like. You wouldn't wear sweatpants to an important meeting, and you wouldn't wear a ball gown, either. Take the same care with your handwriting.

For example, in a note to your boss, if your letters are rigid and perfect you will project the image of someone who is anal, inflexible, and non-visionary. Fine if you are an accountant, not fine if you want to be CFO. If you scrawl a quick, barely legible note to your boss you seem to be more involved in your own ideas than in the people around you, you might project the image of an eccentric artistic genius, but if you aspire to management, write more legibly.

You also project self-esteem in your signature. I am shocked at how many people have a very tiny signature. You need no training in handwriting analysis to know that this is an expression of low self-esteem. Even if you feel like you want to disappear, force yourself to sign your name like you want people to see it.

To all you doubters, test the theory. Get a handwriting analysis book from the library. You only need to skim a few pages to get an idea of what to look for. Then take handwriting samples from people you know well and evaluate them. I bet you'll find the rules of analysis depict an accurate view of that person.

When you add handwriting analysis to your career arsenal, start out small — look at different loops and slopes and figure out what they mean. After a while, you'll find that handwriting analysis actually feels intuitive; like all good insights, once you have it it'll seem obvious, and acting on results of handwriting analysis will make as much sense to you as it does to those multinational companies.

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 a top employee 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.

Overcome incompetent skills by leveraging others
My favorite example of 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 when other people didn't, 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 an incompetent, lazy 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 20 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.

Overcome moral incompetence by knowing your boundaries
After a few big deals, I thought we had hit our groove, when I realized that this same man was having an affair with my sales manager. For months he grumbled that she was terrible, and I should fire her. Then he announced she needed more responsibilities. I should have sensed something was up, but I didn't. Then she dumped him with great fanfare and I found myself sitting awkwardly between them in many meetings.

Sure, I lost a lot of respect for them both, and it was a pain to manage the sales person after that. But the awkward situation didn't mean that I couldn't learn a lot from my boss. And it didn't mean that I couldn't continue to forge important relationships with his important friends. As long as I did not have to act in an immoral way, my boss's issues were not my problem.

Always weigh your 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 (“I'm sorry she dumped you”), and I always knew my boundaries (“We can't fire her. It's illegal”). Even when he was at his worst, I never took what he said personally (“When you are done yelling, I'd be happy to talk to you”).

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, is for you to shine, and no one shines when they're complaining.

One of the most difficult parts of making the transition from college to work is waking up every morning and getting to the office on time. After you have mastered that, the next most difficult thing is the “what am I doing here?” problem. This problem has two scenarios. The first is you have the dumbest job in the whole world and you have idiots telling you how to do idiot work. In this case, you probably have fantasies of the second scenario, in which you have the perfect job and are surrounded by geniuses doing very important work. But what if you are, indeed, surrounded by geniuses and important assignments?

Often, people with little work experience feel stupid at work. And rightly so. Everyone has to teach them what to do. But the problem is that if you show that you feel stupid then no one will want to work with you. After all, the geniuses hired you thinking they could teach you quickly to add value.

So be the person they thought they hired. Stop feeling stupid and focus on ways you can add value even if you don't know anything:

Show potential. That excites people. They hired you for your ability to learn and they knew they'd have to train you. Let them know you're on the right track: Dress right. Say the right things. Show up to meetings on time. Don't be uptight. People will excuse that you don't know a lot because it's exciting to be the one to teach an up and comer.

Ask good questions. You might not have all the answers, but you can help narrow in on good answers by asking insightful questions. An ex-boyfriend, (who was actually a better catch than I had realized at the time,) once told me, “There are no right answers, just sharper questions.”

Don't try to be something you're not. It's OK if you are at a client meeting and have only one or two things to say. The client knows that she has 15 years of experience in her business and you have 15 minutes. But if you're invited, ask questions so that she knows you're engaged and interested and she can get a sense of how you think.
Compensate for your boss in small but significant ways. Think about the personality traits you have and your boss doesn't. Are you good with details? Someone who isn't will appreciate that you are. Are you good at small talk? Show that skill at an office get-together, and your social dolt of a boss will appreciate you.

Pay attention, and use slow times for synthesizing. You have time on your side. Older people have kids, mortgages and sick parents. It's likely you have none of those, which gives you lots of time to think. Creative solutions don't come when you're slogging though meetings or endless in-boxes. The new ideas come during quiet, unstructured time. Gain an edge by giving yourself these moments — you might come up with a truly brilliant idea.

For some, this pep talk won't put a dent in the nervousness you feel around bigwigs. Take solace in the fact that smart people have such a huge need to be right and add value that they sometimes never shut up. Marshall Goldsmith, an executive coach and a founder of Alliance for Strategic Leadership cites the example of an ex-director of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co., who constantly added to other peoples' ideas, as in, “That's a good idea, but it might work better if …” People like that director are better off keeping quiet, says Goldsmith. Not every idea needs to be improved 5%.

So for those of you newbies working with geniuses who always need to say one more thing, recognize that sometimes these brainacs just like to hear themselves talk. The ability to see through such chatter is something you bring to the table.

Maybe you have never been fired. I sure have — more often than I care to remember — and I can assure you that, while the moment may be humbling, the experience has always been educational. Here are things I learned after getting the boot. They may not be earth-shattering lessons, but they’re good reminders when your earth has been shattered.

Be gracious, even at the end.
My first firing took place at my grandma’s bookstore. She said, “I told you that you can’t read when you’re working.” I said, “Just let me finish this one page.” She said, “You can finish all the pages — because you’re fired.” Fine, I told her. Besides, she didn’t pay enough. She told me that I made a lot of money for a 9-year-old. Then she said, “When you’re fired, it’s important to be as gracious as possible because there’s no point in burning a bridge any more than it’s already burned. And you never know what you might need later from the person who is firing you.” Then she took me out for ice cream.

You’d rather be where you’re appreciated, anyway.
I worked at a pizza parlor, where we treated the kitchen like a chemistry lab. The boss’s wife decided that 16-year-old girls were too tempting for him and instructed him to fire anyone who fit the above description. I tried proving my worth by inventing a method to make dough twice as fast as anyone else. But my hours dwindled. I was berated for not lining up the pepperoni exactly. It became a job I could only do wrong. The boss eventually followed his wife’s directive, and I took my pizza expertise to another restaurant, where I became the go-to pizza queen.

Even if you have a job, network like a person who needs a job.
Continuing my career in food services, I worked at an ice cream parlor. It was easy when someone ordered a flavor like daiquiri ice, which would thaw in five minutes. But hard flavors like pralines-and-cream would take most of the day to soften, and scooping them made my muscles sore. So I started directing customers to other ones. (“French vanilla? Feh. Orange sherbet — now that’s a flavor.”) When the end was near, I gave ice cream away for free. When the end arrived, I got another job right away — with someone who had benefited from my scooping largesse.

Everyone is expendable. Especially you.
Upon entering the real world, I worked at one of the first high-profile e-commerce websites. I had done my master’s thesis on interactive media, and suddenly 50-year-old managers were asking me for advice. Competitors tried to recruit me. I felt wanted and needed, and I started believing my own press. So much so that I neglected internal projects for freelance ones, thinking I was untouchable. I was the only one who understood the Internet, right? Wrong. And anyone who thinks they can’t be replaced is too.

Last week I met my boss face-to-face for the first time. I've been working with him for more than two years — via phone and e-mail. I had never seen him, but I had a general idea of what he looked like because over time he had tossed me clues about his appearance. At least I thought he had.

I spend a lot of time writing about appearance and its impact on career success. I've been known to say things like: People judge you in the first three seconds they see you; good-looking people make more money than unattractive people; going to the gym regularly improves your chances of success. Invariably, in response to such columns, my boss will send me a self-deprecating e-mail. He's a funny guy, and to his credit, his e-mails about his looks are usually funny. For example, in reference to the column about good-looking people getting raises, he wrote: “Now I understand why I am making peanuts.”

Or something like that. It is not a direct quote because I didn't save his emails. In fact, based on the messages he sent to me, I thought I would be getting a new boss shortly because he implied he was so incredibly obese that he might die of a heart attack any day. My mental image of him grew more extreme with the arrival of each successive e-mail.

By the time I met my boss at the airport last week, I had begun to envision him as so enormous that he needed a special chair. So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself greeting someone who is physically fit and (it turns out) plays tennis regularly. Clearly, he's not obese, he's just funny. He was sending humorous e-mails that I was misreading. This is what happens in e-mail relationships: People create pictures based on their best guesses. (Or their most desperate guesses. If I was thinking of dating my editor, perhaps I would have imagined him as really good looking.)

The lesson here? Be careful what you write about yourself to someone who never sees you. This goes beyond discussing your looks. For example, suppose you're an over-achiever, but you make jokes about slacking off. Your recipient doesn't know that you work your tail off and you're only being self-deprecating. There's a fine line between being self-deprecating and being revealing, and it isn't visible in e-mail.

As soon as I realized that I had been misreading my editor's e-mails, I started discovering other e-mail nuance problems.

My brother, an investment banker, is working on a large client's overseas business deal that's been widely publicized in the business press. He received a message with the subject line, URGENT!!, from a staff administrator. So he opened it nervously, thinking the deal had collapsed. It turned out that the administrator needed to know how much of his American Express bill would be charged to this particular client.

Now this company is so large it could pay every AMEX customer's bill for several months without severely impacting its bottom line. Obviously, the client wasn't worried about my brother's charges. And my brother wasn't in trouble. But by using the URGENT!! subject line, the administrator inadvertently tipped every one off that she was in trouble for not getting this information sooner. A more astute way for her to address her problem would have been to say in her e-mail, “Please get back to me with this information by the end of the day today.”

Inappropriate e-mail addresses comprise another harmful nuance category. The address is ridiculous in business. Only use a joint address for business correspondence if you and your spouse/partner are applying for a job you'll do together. College career advisor Julia Overton-Healy of Mansfield, Pa., [what college, why mention her out of the blue?] has seen it all: keggerboy and even youwantapieceofme. Surely if you are reading this column you are beyond keggerboy. But analyze your e-mail address critically, paying heed to both sides of the @: is not an improvement over .

E-mail nuances can betray you in the halls of corporate America as easily as verbal nuances. They can turn otherwise well crafted communications into undermining menaces. Even worse, your seemingly clever e-mails may become a company joke and end up serving as fodder for columns like mine.

I learned my first lessons in the importance of workplace communication when I had a job in the British Pound trading pit at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. What makes the exchange special is that there are no pretenses: You don’t have to be an Ivy Leaguer or a genius trader to succeed. The people who do succeed are alert, quick, and well versed in the art of communication.

It is ironic that the most treasured office skill is most prevalent at the most un-officelike place. But the trading floor is a great classroom for people who work in a traditional office, especially those who remain stalled professionally because of a lack of communication skills.

Lesson 1: Learn the secret language.
Every office has a secret language. At the Merc, it’s hand signals. The trading pit — literally a pit — is filled with people waving and motioning because it’s so large and loud that people have to use hand signals to talk to each other. I had to take a class so that I could signal phrases like “Prudential Bache has a large order in the British pound pit that needs to be filled at 68.” The guy across the room might say, “Watch me for an order coming in,” and I’d have to keep a close eye on him all day because he’d only signal the order once before giving the business to someone else. The difference between “buy at 68” and “sell at 68” is the turn of a palm. At a standard office, the secret language may be that business is mostly conducted by e-mail or meetings, or that the boss likes to be presented with ideas in a certain fashion. If you don’t communicate in the way that people expect, no one will hear you.

Lesson 2: Build relationships during downtimes, and you will benefit during the fast times.
When the trading floor is slow, the traders and clerks stand around talking; the scene resembles a bar. If you are not funny, or insightful, or clever, or at least good at laughing at other peoples’ jokes, people will not like you. And if people don’t like you on the trading floor, it will cost you — just like at the office. When trading picks up and phone orders from brokers stream in, people will trade with you or they won’t. At the office, if you are disliked, you aren’t asked out to lunch, assigned good projects, or given help and support when you need it.

Lesson 3: The small communication cues are the most important.
In the office, this rule is subtle. For example, I had a boss who was great verbally, but whenever he got nervous he would bite his nails and, no matter what he was saying, all we heard was, “This place is headed for a train wreck.” People pick up on the most casual, seemingly trivial things.

The great thing about the trading floor is that you get immediate feedback when you botch a small cue. When trading is fast, prices move fast, and if you miss a price, you could be held responsible for getting that price anyway. In the language of hand signals, a trader can say, “I have 600 shares to sell at 70,” in less than two seconds. The trader will make that sale by simply catching someone’s eye and seeing that person nod. If either one of those people makes even the slightest mistake, they could lose thousands or millions of dollars.

It is not an exaggeration to say that poor communication skills are the number one problem that holds people back in the workplace. One manager I talked to at a Fortune 500 company said that most of her management time is spent coaching people on how to talk to each other so that teams work efficiently. “And people don’t even appreciate it,” she says. For everyone out there who has been coached by a boss, be grateful. Because on the trading floor, you’d otherwise be fired immediately.

A meeting is a like a party. If you don't plan it carefully you’ll look incompetent and end up embarrassed. Forethought is necessary. You wouldn't invite three ex-boyfriends to a game of Twister with your mom, and you wouldn't plan a costume party without letting people know the theme in advance. While you might not have ex-boyfriends or a good costume, most offices always have individuals who love to undermine leaders in meetings.

Having no agenda is the first sign your meeting will be a time-suck. . Most people who skip writing an agenda have no idea what they want to accomplish during their meeting. They don’t know this, though.

They begin the meeting thinking they know the goal — for example, to get a project back on track. But they’re wrong. The real goal is to bring team members together to create a plan to get the project moving. Without an agenda, someone else will create the plan during the meeting, and you’ll end up seeming weak and helpless.

Most people know they should always have a meeting agenda, but for unfathomable reasons, they assume their meetings are the exception to this rule. Even if you think your meeting is an exception, write an agenda. There is no downside for you in doing this. Every meeting gives you an opportunity to demonstrate that you’re a visionary. But if you aren’t in charge of what happens during the sit-down, how can you ensure that you’ll look good?

Other people don't write agendas because their meetings are routine and predictable. Everyone who attends could write the agenda themselves. In this case, why have the meeting? Then you’re knowingly scheduling a time-suck. You’ve probably worked for a company where managers hold Monday-morning meetings to hear their staffers say what they did the previous week. A competent manager would ask for a weekly report, then distribute a weekly summary instead. Think daily listserv vs. digest. A digest would alleviate another boring meeting, or it would open up the Monday meeting for more substantive issues.

Still not convinced that your weekly meeting is useless? Perhaps you think an agenda-less meeting where everyone reports their progress will make a certain slacker in your group get the point. Forget it: Do your job and handle the slacker on your own instead of making your staff suffer through a meeting.

The downside of preparing agendas is they may get attacked. This happens when attendees get the agenda at the start of the meeting. The meeting can then degenerate into group-level agenda attacks, which then can degenerate into group-level personal attacks and a sidetracked meeting. Nip this in the bud by emailing the agenda in a note to participants a day in advance (don’t send your agenda as an attachment because no one will read it). By giving attendees a chance to review the agenda, attackees will likely approach you individually, and you’ll have time to make revisions. (Here's a tip for procrastinators: Write your agenda before you call your meeting. This way you'll know whether in fact you need the meeting before you schedule it.)

Even after writing a strong agenda, some meeting leaders feel their sit-downs will be unsuccessful. The solution isn’t ordering food for participants. If you need food to have a successful meeting, cancel the meeting. Otherwise, food will make your meeting last longer than necessary — again, a time-suck. . There's nothing like the inevitable crash from a a mass sugar high — just when you need to develop the big plan.

Still not writing that agenda? Let’s return to the party theme: The best part of a party is the after-party when you discuss everyone who attended and what they wore and said. In fact, I never feel a party has really happened until I've done a debriefing. The same is true for meetings. People will debrief and dis each other behind their backs after the meeting — nothing you can do about that. But you can ensure they're only dissing you for what you wore and not what you said by maintaining control with an agenda.

Some recruiters say that as many as one in five job hunters lies on their resume.
Why isn’t this news plastered on the front page of The Wall Street Journal? Quite frankly, it’s because we all know businesspeople lie – the issue is how bad are the lies?

Some people make a distinction between the falsehoods that put us in a better light – even if it’s a light we don’t deserve to be in – and saying something that’s totally untrue. The latter, even on a resume, is morally wrong and emotionally exhausting. Not only do you have to remember the lie but you also have to live with knowing you built your career on it. Even more difficult is the stress of waiting to be caught.

Exhibit A is Ronald Zarella, the CEO of Bausch and Lomb. He was caught saying he had finished business school when he hadn’t. He did not get fired, though. While he volunteered to resign, the board kept him on, presumably because the other directors had told a lie or two in their lifetimes.

Clearly, as Mr. Zarella’s case indicates, not all lies are equal on resumes. To determine the varying degrees of lying terribleness, context matters. For example, murdering 50 people and then saying in court that you never killed anyone is a very bad lie. On the other hand, it’s pretty innocuous when married partners tell each other that they just had great sex when it wasn’t that great.

What should you do if you lied to get your job? If you’re a career veteran, plan to go straight. You’ll need to undo the lies you’ve told over the years to get jobs or promotions. However, don’t be quick to make a public confession that could kill your career.

First, determine if the lie is considered “bad”. Sometimes, this is pretty easy. For instance, who cares if a metal welder said he graduated from college when he didn’t? But a college professor who tells this lie should consider a career change, and perhaps a name change as well. In a recent speech, the president of Hamilton College quoted without attributing the quote. This lie cost him his job. Ronald Zarella should be thankful he’s not a university president.

Some situations are murkier. If you’re a high-profile executive at a big company who lied on a resume, you should get a lawyer because the shareholders are likely to create a fracas and you may get fired.. And if, like most senior executives, you have a clause that allows the company to fire you for cause, you could lose your severance. If your lawyer can’t save your job, she might at least be able to save your golden parachute.

If you are middle manager, pray that your company doesn’t invest a lot of money in double-checking resumes. For now, don’t mention the lie, but be truthful the next time you seek a job. Meanwhile, be an outstanding performer. You don’t want to provoke your boss into searching for legal ways to fire you, because he might check out your resume and see your falsehood.

If you lied about having a college degree when you don’t, consider finishing college. Not having a degree will eventually impede your career advancement – but you already know that because you wouldn’t have lied otherwise.

For those of you just starting out, heed the duress that lying causes those at the top, and figure out another way to get there. A career is something you should want to live with, and a lie isn’t. Choose your life partners wisely. Take action to bolster your experience with hard work so you don’t have to bolster your resume with lies.