Lessons of the Past 43: When It Pays To Pretend You Know Not!
There are times in life when it pays to pretend ignorance, when you pretend to know not – but actually, you do know! Especially when it comes to managing your boss – whether in the world of commerce or in politics.
Here are 8 basic rules that have always helped people survive and succeed. These are rules which become internalised in successful persons anywhere in the world.
# Never let him feel that you are smarter than him! To imply that you are smarter through verbal, written or non-verbal communication, whether in private or worse, in public, can be your undoing. You will be labelled a show-off and kept at a distance. 
# Never let him know that you know his weaknesses. You should cover up for your boss, but in such a subtle way that there is no embarrassment and, nearly always,he feels that he did it himself.
# Never let him know that you know about his indiscretions – whether it is his love life or some corrupt practices. Best to stay mum – and pretend ignorance even when someone reports this to you and tries to drag you into a conversation.  
# Never let him know that you know about his past – happenings like being sacked from an earlier assignment, or demoted to a position of lesser importance, or transferred to a location of obscurity. 
# Never let him know that you are looking for better opportunities elsewhere, perhaps, to learn and improve, and maybe also to earn more money, 
# Never talk about the progress of your children in school, especially if they are doing extremely well (and his children are not). This brings in another area of competition, quite unnecessary and can be an additional irritant.
# Never mention that you are underutilised because your efficiency level is high. This will only result in more work being dumped on you - from him and possibly even from others. 
# Never talk about your parents – especially if they were well placed and also well off. Again, this may create envy and jealousy, which affect relationships in the workplace. 
Following these eight rules consistently and routinely, their becoming a part of one’s character, helps to make the path smoother and life less complicated for all of us. If you analyse the profile of all your successful friends, you will find that they do all or most of what has been outlined above. 
We know that in the developed world, especially the US, the old order is changing. There are now situations where a past subordinate in an earlier job, is now the boss in the new company you are joining. But the job content and the higher salary do not allow you to let the past crossing of paths come in the way. 
We know that some companies now have the new entrant being interviewed by a panel of the future immediate reports (i.e., after he joins, they would all be reporting to him). 
There are companies where the subordinates also give a quarterly report on the boss when, in the past, it was only the boss who would do this, the other way round. All this is true – and there may be more variants to come – especially with companies like Netflix, that are setting the pace in this new world order. However, this does not diminish the importance of the eight rules for a peaceful and yet successful management career. 
(Walter Vieira is a Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants of India (FIMC). He was a corporate executive for 14 years and pioneered marketing consulting in India in 1975. As a consultant, he has worked across the globe in four continents. He was the first Asian elected Chairman of ICMCI, the world apex body of 45 countries. He is the author of 16 books; a business columnist; visiting professor on marketing in the US, Europe and Asia. His latest books are “5 Gs of family Business” with Dr Mita Dixit and “Marketing in a Digital/ Data World” with Brian Almeida. He now spends most of the time in NGO work.)
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