What are the 4 best methods for increasing your power in the workplace?



The book Power by Stanford business school professor Jeffrey Pfeffer may very well be a Machiavelli’s The Prince for the modern corporate era.

What’s really impressive about Power is that it’s backed up by plenty of research as well as anecdotal evidence.

So what does Pfeffer say you need to do to succeed at office politics and gain power?


1) Stop thinking doing a good job is the most important thing

Hard work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Performance is only loosely tied to who succeeds:

The data shows that performance doesn’t matter that much for what happens to most people in most organizations. That includes the effect of your accomplishments on those ubiquitous performance evaluations and even on your job tenure and promotion prospects.

Research shows being liked affects performance reviews more than actual performance:

In an experimental study of the performance appraisals people received, those who were able to create a favorable impression received higher ratings than did people who actually performed better but did not do as good a job in managing the impressions they made on others.


2) Be visible

To be rewarded, you need to be noticed. And the boss is only going to notice if you make an effort to be noticed:

your first responsibility is to ensure that those at higher levels in your company know what you are accomplishing. And the best way to ensure they know what you are achieving is to tell them.


3) Be confident — even when you’re not

Powerful people act confident and confidence tells others you are powerful:

Because power is likely to cause people to behave in a more confident fashion, observers will associate confident behavior with actually having power.

Leadership is theater:

Her experience suggested that the secret of leadership was the ability to play a role, to pretend, to be skilled in the theatrical arts. Rubin is right. Differences in the ability to convey power through how we talk, appear, and act matter in our everyday interactions, from seeking a job to attempting to win a vital contract to presenting a company’s growth prospects before investment analysts.


4) Keep your boss happy

Your relationship with your boss is far more important than your actual performance:

The lesson from cases of people both keeping and losing their jobs is that as long as you keep your boss or bosses happy, performance really does not matter that much and, by contrast, if you upset them, performance won’t save you… 

How do you keep the boss happy? Ask what they want and do it:

It is much more effective for you to ask those in power, on a regular basis, what aspects of the job they think are the most crucial and how they see what you ought to be doing.

And research shows flattery works:

One of the best ways to make those in power feel better about themselves is to flatter them. The research literature shows how effective flattery is as a strategy to gain influence… University of California–Berkeley professor Jennifer Chatman, in an unpublished study, sought to see if there was some point beyond which flattery became ineffective. She believed that the effectiveness of flattery might have an inverted U-shaped relationship, with flattery being increasingly effective up to some point but beyond that becoming ineffective as the flatterer became seen as insincere and a “suck up.” As she told me, there might be a point at which flattery became ineffective, but she couldn’t find it in her data.


So what stops most people from being more powerful?

Themselves, says Pfeffer:

Stop thinking the world is a just place

We don’t want to believe that currying favor makes a big difference so we don’t take it as seriously as our work. And that, says Pfeffer, is the biggest mistake.

Curious? Check out the book:

  • Power by Jeffrey Pfeffer

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