With Your Boss, It Pays (and Pays Big) to be Tactically “Polite” at Work

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Martin, a senior manager of computer sales, was in a quandry: through a recruiter, he’d been offered a position as a Regional Sales Director by his company’s direct competitor. Though the position was clearly a step up, and offered a higher commission structure than he had, he felt a strong loyalty to both his mentor, Harold, and to his company, as he’d always been treated well, and with honesty. He spoke candidly with Harold, EVP of Sales, who counseled him as a father would counsel a son: be patient, stay with “what you know,” and “who you know,” and you will be the company’s next Sales Director, as soon as a Director position opens up. “You’re next . . . I promise,” Harold gave Martin his word, which was as good as gold to Martin. Martin decided to stay, and turned down the competitor’s offer. Within the next eight months, Harold left on disability after suffering a serious stroke, the sales division was restructured and placed under a new Chief Operating Officer, who brought in from the outside two new Sales Directors he knew from his prior employer. Martin was angry, mostly at himself, but could do little, as he had no evidence of any kind of Martin’s commitment to him. While it was not something he would ever consider suing over, establishing the promise, and his patience in light of it, would have gone a long way in helping him secure for himself what he had been promised, had earned and was due: the promotion to Sales Director.

LESSON TO BE LEARNED: Believe it or not, the careful, tactical use of “politeness” at work can give you increased job security, better promotions, raises and bonuses, and greater benefits and perq’s. Here’s how: Every time your boss (or someone else in authority) tells you that you “will get” something, or that you are “entitled” to something, or that you “deserve” something, you need to “thank” that person for what they’ve assured you of, in an email, or in some other written fashion, and keep a copy for yourself.

It doesn’t matter if your boss told you verbally or in writing, privately or publicly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a suggestion, an assurance, a statement, a promise or a guarantee. What does matter is that you make a record of it, and a “thank you” note is the best way to do that. By saying “thank you,” you’ve made an indelible record, and you’ve done it in a way that probably won’t be considered confrontational. Otherwise, you may later lose out on whatever’s been promised. The person making the promise to you may later on leave the company, or die. He or she may forget (intentionally or absent-mindedly), or he or she may not be acting in good faith. The most successful negotiators know that “careful confirmation” is the most critical step in negotiating. The most successful employees practice this powerful secret all the time, by making it a habit.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: Make written confirmation of assurances and promises a habit. By practicing tactical “politeness” you gain critical leverage in negotiating, new respect from those who you negotiate with at work, and a leg up in the race to the top. You’ll also sleep better, too. Don’t be entirely obvious about it, but learn to do it subtly. It will be something that you’ll thank yourself for doing. All by remembering what your mom taught you: Always remember to say “Thank You”

Note: If you would like to use a Model Memo we offer to help you confirm assurances/promises of your boss, [Click Here].