Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Upgrade Yourself from the World of Coding

THE other day, I met a bright young engineer in MindTree and asked him what his ambition was. He was very clear. "I want to be an architect". My next question to him was, what does he read? He looked surprised and then replied that he does not read much outside what appears on a computer screen. My next question to him was whom all does he admire in MindTree among the three best architects? He named the predictable three. Then I told him what the fundamental gap was between him and the best three. It was about the ability to make intelligent conversation about any subject under the sun - a capability borne out of serious reading habits.

The next thing I asked him to do was to poll these three on what were the six books they had read last. The result was amazing. The three named eighteen books in all - of which at least six were common. Ninety percent of the books had nothing to do with information technology. The exercise proves a key point - to be a great nerd, one has to have interests outside writing code. However, many engineers think that the path to a great technical career is about technical skills alone.

Long back, Bell Labs conducted an interesting study - closely watching the common characteristics among a group of technical professionals who rose to the top. The exercise revealed nine key factors outside just technical competence that differentiated brilliant technical folks from the masses. The study was conducted by Robert Kelly of Carnegie Mellon and Janet Caplan of Williams College. As I see the Indian industry today, I think the study done at Bell Labs remains relevant in every detail.

The Bell Labs engineers who did extremely well for themselves - as they progressed in their career, showed the following qualities that differentiated them from their peers: taking initiative, cognitive ability, networking, leadership, teamwork, followership, perspective, organisation savvy and show-and-tell capability. Let us look at each of these and see what lies underneath.

Taking initiative

This is about accepting responsibility above and beyond your stated job. It is about volunteering for additional activities and promoting new ideas. None of these will jump out as apparent as a young engineer gets in to her first job. She will tend to think that her career progress is really dependent only on the ability to write code. The concept of initiative begins by looking for technical and other opportunities in the organisation and volunteering for them. The idea of volunteering is little understood - both by organisations and individuals. In the days to come, it will gain increasing prominence in our professional lives.

Initiative is also about two other things - dealing constructively with criticism and planning for the future. The latter is a function of many things - a good starting point is to start mapping the environment, learning to understand how the future is unfolding and then stepping back to ask, how am I preparing myself?

Cognitive abilities

The concept of cognitive development is about understanding the interplay of technology and trends in how they are getting deployed. It is also about recognising the business eco-system in which technology works. It is about situational understanding and consequence thinking. The importance of consequence thinking is very critical. It asks us to look beyond the immediate deliverable of a task and it is about asking who will be impacted by my work, what is the end state? People in our industry just think in terms of modules and seldom ask where is it going, who is my customer and more importantly - who is my customer's customer? Cognition is a key faculty that determines how much we are able to read patterns, make sense of things. Refining cognitive skills helps us to go beyond stated needs of our customers to explore unstated needs.


We tend to think of networking in a social sense. As one grows higher in life, we are often as powerful as is our network. Building a professional network requires us to step out of the comfort zone to look at whom can I learn from. Quite often, and more as one progresses in life, the learning has to come from unusual sources. At MindTree, we expose our people to social workers, architects, graphic designers, teachers, people who lead government organisations, leaders from client organisations. The interesting thing about benefiting from a network is that it works like a savings bank. I need to deposit in to it before I withdraw. We all have heard about how important internal and external knowledge communities are. Again, in MindTree, we encourage people to belong to 26 different knowledge communities that run on a non-project based agenda and are vehicles of learning. These create networking opportunities and open many doors.


Next to networking is development of leadership skills. Many technical people associate it with "management" and shy away from developing key leadership skills like communication, negotiation, influencing, inter-personal skills, business knowledge, building spokespersonship and so on. Take for instance negotiating as a skill. Imagine that you are an individual professional contributor. Why should you learn to negotiate? Tomorrow, your organisation becomes member of a standard body and you have to represent the organisation as a technical expert. You will find yourself needing to negotiate with powerful lobbies that represent a competing viewpoint or a rival standard. Unless you have honed your capability alongside your hacking skills, you will be at a complete loss. Yet, you do not discover your negotiating capability one fine morning. You need to work on it from an early stage. Negotiating for internal resources is becoming another critical need. You can choose to remain an individual professional contributor but from time to time, you have to create mind share in the organisation where resources are limited and claimants are many. Establishing thought leadership is another key requirement of growth and independent of whether I want to be a technical person or grow to be a manager, I need to develop as a leader who can influence others.


Our educational system does not teach us teamwork. If you ever tried to solve your test paper "collaboratively" - it was called copying. You and I spent all our school and college life fiercely competing to get the engineering school and seat of our choice. Then comes the workplace and you suddenly realise that it is not individual brilliance but collective competence that determines excellence. Collaboration is the most important part of our work life. Along with collaboration come issues of forming, norming, storming, performing stages of team life. Capability to create interdependencies, capability to encourage dialogue and dissension, knowledge sharing become critical to professional existence. All this is anti-thesis of what we learn in the formative years of life. Add to it, our social upbringing - our resource-starved system tells us to find ways and means to ensure self-preservation ahead of teamwork. In Japan, the country comes first, the company (read team) comes next and I come last. In India, it is the other way round.


The best leaders are also great followers. We can be great leaders if we learn and imbibe the values of followership. Everywhere you go - there are courses that teach leadership.

Nowhere you will find a business school teaching you followership. Yet, when solving complex problems in life, we have to embrace what is called "situational leadership". I have to be comfortable being led by others, I must learn to trust leadership. Many people have issues reporting to a test lead as a developer, or being led by a business analyst or a user interface designer. In different parts of a project life cycle, people of varied competence must lead. I must be comfortable when some one else is under the strobe light. I must have the greatness to be led by people younger than I, people with a different background or a point of view. That is how I learn.


This is the hardest to explain. It begins with appreciating why I am doing what I am doing. Quite often, I find people having a very narrow view of their tasks; many do not see the criticality of their task vis-à-vis a larger goal. So, a tester in a project sees his job as testing code or a module designer's worldview begins and ends with the module. He does not appreciate the importance of writing meaningful documentation because he thinks it is not his job or does not realise that five years from now, another person will have to maintain it.

I always tell people about the story of two people who were laying bricks. A passer by asked the first one as to what he was doing. He replied, "I am laying bricks".
He asked the second one. He replied, "I am building a temple". This story explains what perspective is and how the resultant attitude and approach to work can be vastly different.

Organisational savvy

As technical people grow up, they often feel unconnected to the larger organisation. Some people develop a knack of exploring it, finding spots of influence, tracking changes, creating networks and in the process they learn how to make the organization work for them. The organisation is not outside of me. If I know it well, I can get it to work for me when I want. Think of the difference between one project manager and another or one technical lead from another.
One person always gets the resources she needs - the other one struggles. One person knows who is getting freed from which client engagement and ahead of time blocks the person. One person reacts to an organisational change and finds himself allocated to a new project as a fait accompli - another person is able to be there ahead of the opportunity. Larger the organisation, higher is the need to develop organisation savvy. It begins with questioning ones knowledge about the larger business dynamic, knowing who does what, tracking the work of other groups, knowing leaders outside of my own sphere and a host of other things. Importantly, it is also about tracking what the competitors of the organization are doing and keeping abreast of directional changes.

Show and tell

This is the bane of most Indian software engineers. We all come from a mindset that says; if you know how to write code, why bother about honing communication skills? Recently, we asked a cross section of international clients on what they think is the number one area of improvement for Indian engineers? They replied in unison, it is communication. Show and tell is about oral and written communication. Some engineers look down upon the need for communication skills and associate it with people who make up for poor programming prowess. It is the greatest misconception. Think of the best chief technology officers of companies like Microsoft, Oracle, IBM Global Services or Sun. Their number one job is evangelizing.

If they cannot forcefully present their technologies, nothing else will matter. So, every engineer must pay attention to improving the ability to present in front of people, develop the ability to ask questions and handle objections. In a sense, if you cannot sell the technology you create, it has no value. So, building salespersonship is a key requirement for technical excellence.

The foregoing points are not relevant if you have already filed your first patent at the age of eighteen. Everyone else, please take note.

The author is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, MindTree Consulting.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Nine easy ways to beat stress

Radhika had lost weight. Yet, this young homemaker from Pune was not rejoicing. She was sleeping less at night. She did not feel like meeting family and friends. She always seemed preoccupied.

Ask her what was wrong and she would say, "Aren't you scared? There's swine flu, there's panic at my son's school, my husband's job pressures are ever growing, and oh... the list is endless."

Radhika may not have much reason to worry about swine flu. But she definitely has a larger problem to worry about and that is: stress.

We all know stress, but here are some quick facts:

  • Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses in many individuals
  • Stress also affects the immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases
  • Almost 75 per cent of people experience 'some stress' every two weeks (National Health Interview Survey)
  • Of these people, half experience moderate to high levels of stress during that two-week period
  • Worldwide workplace stress is growing by the day. A report estimated billions affected
  • The use of tranquilisers, antidepressants and anxiety-relief medicines has gone up considerably in our country
  • Stress plays an important role in alcoholism, obesity, suicide and substance abuse
  • Excessive stress can cause many physical and emotional symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, lethargy, overeating, anxiety and depression

So how can you help yourself deal with stress?

We spoke to a few health professionals and they came up with some easy tips on how to deal with stress, irrespective of the cause.

1. Create a balance in your life, says Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr Dayal Mirchandani. You have to make time for activities that are important to you -- spend time with family, friends.

2. Make time for rest and regeneration, he adds. Listen to music, watch movie, take walks, whatever you like doing. Carry your iPod wherever you go.

3. Don't let small things bother you. If something is on your mind, find out more about it instead of relying on undependable sources. Dr Adhiraj Joglekar, consulting psychiatrist says, "Take for example swine flu. The first thing to acknowledge is that the virus is contagious (spreads) but not virulent (deadly). If it was deadly, then deaths would have been a lot higher than they are." Learn how you can protect yourself instead of panicking.

4. Exercise. "Even if it means walking for 10 minutes everyday or climbing the stairs, do it," says Dr Mirchandani. Exercising releases endorphins that help in keeping you positive and happy.

5. Make time to relax at work. "Take those five minutes to look out of the window when you are at office. It is better than later undergoing a stress workshop for two hours a day," says Dr Mirchandani.

6. Rekindle that hobby -- it could be shopping or painting or whatever you like. Do activities that make you happy and take your mind off the routine.

7. Meditate. Cliched as this sounds, there is no shortcut out of this, says Dr Mirchandani. Take short breaks during your work-day to meditate in a quiet corner of your office. Do some deep breathing exercises to calm your mind.

8. Change your habits, if need be. If something is bothering you, a change in habit can work wonders.

9. Change your mindset. "Ultimately, it is how you look at life. Don't let stress get the better of you," says Dr Mirchandani. "If something bothers you, look at it rationally and see how you can reduce its effect on you or eliminate it. Don't let it reach a stage where you need professional help."


Friday, July 03, 2009

Why the Rs 1 lakh tax-free investment limit is useless

A case study on why the Rs 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) tax-free investment limit for Section 80C of the Income Tax Act is ridiculously low and impractical.

There are a number of approved methods to reduce out tax outflow. The major among them, for salaried employees, is the provision under Section 80C of the Income tax Act.

Before getting into the case study we need to get a better understanding of Section 80C.

Benefits of 80C

Section 80C provides for reduction in taxable income up to Rs 1 lakh if certain investments or expenses are made. There are a good many benefits from this section:

  • Taxable income itself reduces. For a person earning Rs 2.5 lakh (Rs 250,000), an investment of Rs 1 lakh will bring him below the taxable income bracket. For women, the income can be as high as Rs 2.8 lakh (Rs 280,000) before they pay tax if they use Section 80C to the full limit.
  • Forced Savings Habit. Section 80C will ensure that some amount is saved every year for future use.
  • Easy Access to 80C instruments. The investment options that are covered under Section 80C can be accessed and availed very easily.

The Options Under 80C

The items that are included in Section 80C, which are available in the market currently are as follows:

  • EPF (Employees Provident Fund) upto 12% of the basic salary
  • School Fees for Children (No sub limits. Only school tuition fee is acceptable. Transport, special fees, private tuition, etc, cannot be included)
  • Life Insurance Premium (only if the premium is less than 20% of the sum insured; in other words life cover has to be at least five times the premium). This includes ULIPs (Unit Linked Insurance Plans) and traditional plans from all insurance companies. No sub limits.
  • Pension Plan Premium without any sub limits. This was earlier under Section 80CCC with a sub limit of Rs 10,000. 80CCC has now been merged into 80C itself.
  • Housing loan Principal without sub limit. The interest comes under a section 24 with a limit of Rs 1.5 lakh.
  • Equity Linked Savings Scheme (ELSS) Mutual Fund schemes. No sub limits
  • 5 years Tax Saving Bank Deposits. No sub limits.
  • National Savings Scheme Certificates. No sub limits.
  • Public Provident Fund (PPF). The limit is Rs 70,000 per person per year. Investments in children's names will also be included in the limit for the parents.

Limit of Rs 1 lakh

Though we have a lot of options for investments and one expense item (school fees) too, the limit to which the tax benefit can be got is only Rs 1 lakh. The investments can be in any proportion and there is no minimum amount that needs to be shown.

In case the tax payer has invested cumulatively say Rs 1.35 lakh (Rs 135,000) and earns Rs 5 lakh (Rs 500,000) per year. The taxable income will be reduced only to the extent of Rs 1 lakh (Rs 100,000) and will be assessed at Rs 4 lakh (Rs 400,000).

Limit not enough

The limit may be enough for those who have income in the less than Rs 3 lakh (Rs 300,000) category. Once the income is more than Rs 3 lakh per year (Rs 25,000 per month), the benefit of this section is on a reducing scale.

Let up see an example of an actual salary slip of Ramesh* (*Name changed for protecting privacy). He is a sole earning member of the family, working as a finance executive in a BPO company. He is married with 2 children in school.

Salary Slip Analysis of Ramesh related to Section 80C


(all amounts in Rs.)


Per Month

Per year







Section 80C investments





School Fees



Life Insurance



Pension Plan



Housing Loan Principal


Total Section 80C Investments



1.                   Terms plans for self and spouse -- Rs 6,000, Children' plan ULIPs -- Rs 30,000


2.                   EMI on Rs 8,00,000 loan for 15 years at 10% interest -- Rs 8,600 per month started 2 years ago


3.                   Two children. Both in same school.

The section 80C limit as seen above is quickly exhausted. In another scenario, for a person earning Rs 50,000 per month,  the EPF alone may cover as much as Rs 30,000 out of the available Rs 1 lakh.

Need to increase 80C limits

One of the requests from the salaried classes to the finance minister has been to increase the Section 80C limit to Rs 250,000 in the forthcoming Budget. The increased limits can bring in much required investments to build our nation's infrastructure.

This will benefit the country more than the actual tax received as the quantum of investment through such investments will be at least three times more than the tax received (at the 33.3% income tax slab).

To save tax Ramesh (10% income slab) has invested Rs 1 lakh. If he has paid tax till March, it would have been only Rs 15,450 (10% of income between Rs 150,000 and Rs 300,000 plus Educational cess).

In a few days more, we will get to know whether our wishes have been granted.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Cisco joins the DOW at GM's expense

With GM now in bankruptcy protection, it's getting the boot from the prestigious Dow Jones Industrial Average. In GM's place, the DOW  is set to add Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) to the index.

Cisco could be added to the DOW as soon a June 8th (according to the Wall Street Journal). It is no surprise at this point that GM is in bankruptcy protection and similarly no surprise that a bankrupt company (though once one of the world's largest) is getting kicked off the DOW.

The addition of Cisco should also not really be seen as a big surprise. Cisco with 65,000 plus employees and multiple tech divisions spanning consumer, enterprise and governement networking and collaboration gear is a stalwart of the US economy. It is, and has been for some time a good leading indicator for buyer sentiment in technology.

Cisco CEO John Chambers was among the first tech leaders to point out that the current economic slowdown was global and would affect technology vendors like Cisco. The buying patterns that Cisco sees from government, enterprise and consumer customers gives it a broad cross section of the economy and makes it a decent benchmark for buyer sentiment in my view.

Cisco is also a company with some $30 billion or so of cash on hand, and despite the challenging economy, seems to be staying the course of sustainability for its business.

The addition of Cisco to the DOW also marks an interesting milestone for tech. Cisco is the first "pure" technology vendor to be added to the DOW since Micrsofot (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) in 1999.

Though Cisco today is already among the most heavily traded stock on the Nasdaq, I would expect that with its inclusion on the DOW it might receive just a bit more interest from an even broader base of analysts and investors.

The addition of Cisco to the DOW, ultimately will not likely make any real difference to Cisco's technology initivatives. It does however give them even more prominence as a key element of one of the world's leading financial indicators.

Friday, May 29, 2009

8 amusing facts about your home loan

A loan agreement is the document that lays out the terms and conditions of the lender. It also informs the lender of the borrower's consent. It is very important to read what you sign for that very reason. Be informed before you agree.

The agreement could be the last thing you want to read. The miniscule font size alone is a turn off. Add to that, too many asterisks, and more than ample number of sections. So, even if reading the document seems to be a mind-numbing task, you have to get it done. This document is legal and once you sign it, you are bound by its terms and conditions.

But you must read the document very carefully. Because not only will it inform you, it has immense potential for amusement. Are you ready for some fun then?

1. If you have a dispute with the bank during the loan tenure, as a borrower, you cannot issue a stop-payment instruction with respect to post-dated cheques for as long as the 'facility' (loan) or any part of the dues is outstanding. In case such an instruction is issued, the bank can initiate criminal proceedings against you under the Negotiable Instruments Act (1881).

2. If you, the loan borrower, do not understand English, a declaration in vernacular language needs to be executed and signed by you in the desired vernacular language. There is a special instruction in the agreement regarding the same.

3. There is a special 'Memorandum Regarding Signing' for those who understand a vernacular language, for an illiterate, and for a blind person.

4. According to the agreement, you cannot sell, exchange, partition, mortgage, charge, encumber, lease, or dispose the property till you have got 'discharge' from the bank in writing.

5. You cannot hold the bank responsible for any delay in construction, giving possession of, completion of property by developer, promoter or society even if the bank has approved or sanctioned any facilities to such a person or entity.

6. If you are a resident Indian, you cannot leave India for employment or business or stay long-term outside India without fully repaying the loan. You cannot stay out of India for any purpose for more than 60 days. There should not have been a change in the citizenship nor should you have made any earnings or income during this period from abroad.

7. If you have taken a 'home equity' or a 'top-up loan' you cannot let out your property for use/ occupation by another person without prior written permission from the bank.

8. Oh yes, and this one is a personal favourite, see if it's yours too. It is not clear whether banks are bound by law to notify you of changes in their policy. But, the agreement binds you to remain acquainted with a bank's rules/ terms and conditions affecting or relating to the loan taken.


Monday, April 27, 2009

When You Buy A Good Company, Eat Your Ego

It was the largest acquisition by an Indian company in the technology space. But that was not all that set apart HCL Technologies’ takeover of Axon in September. HCL Tech had countered Infosys Technologies’ bid of 600 pence a share for the UK-based SAP implementation firm, with an aggressive offer of 650 pence a share. Just when it seemed like the two bidders might engage each other in an endless game of bids and counterbids, Infosys withdrew and Axon became the fourth company to fall into HCL Tech’s M&A kitty last year. The other three, though smaller, were US-based Control Point Solutions and CapitalStream and British Liberata Financial Services. BW’s Binu Kwatra spoke to HCL Technologies’ CEO Vineet Nayar on how he makes mergers and acquisitions work in times of a global economic crisis.

What should be avoided after acquisitions such as Axon, for instance?
Impose on them the HCL brand. Call them an HCL SAP division. Give them an HCL e-mail id. Put HCL hoardings in their offices. Number two, they are used to using tools and technology and conducting business in a certain way, which works for them because they are five times more successful than I am. So, eat your ego and kill your own ways of doing business and adopt their ways. The third is what I call trust. You acquire a company because they are good; then you don’t trust them and you put somebody from your side on top of them. For God’s sake, why are you doing that? So, leave them alone. The last — the value is between that company and its customer. The value is not in the interface between HCL and that company. So, focus on how you can enable that, so that the company can create a higher value for its customer.

How crucial is this ‘enabling’?

The critical question that your reader should ask himself is — what were the fundamentals under which you wanted to do the mergers and acquisitions? New capability acquisitions, access to new geographies and making your non-performing business performing? In the slowdown, has any of the three factors changed? If they have not, then M&A is not a three-letter word. It should be pursued vigorously. If anything, it has become easier.

So, the Axon management stays and your SAP head reports to it?
Yes… and all the 2,500 people.

Global business environment has changed considerably since the Axon takeover. To what extent have you lowered revenue expectations from your acquisitions?
I think the global economic slowdown has given us the ability to absorb these acquisitions. Because we are growing at a lower growth rate, there is a better management banquet, there is more time to absorb, there is more time to do re-orientation. So, the pause button that has been pushed in the global market is the most wonderful thing that could happen to you from the acquisition point of view.

How long will it take for these acquisitions to contribute to HCL Tech’s growth?
Starting this quarter, I think. Why should they not contribute to growth? Now would you see the growth in the business that we acquired? Maybe not.

In terms of profit as well…
Yeah, why not? I don’t see any reason why you would not see growth. But the way the street looks at growth is wrong. If you have acquired X, (they ask) and has X become 2X. (This is) Wrong. It is like camphor the catalyst — you acquired X because you wanted to convert the milk into cheese, because cheese is more expensive. Now you are asking me what has happened to that catalyst. It does not matter. But has HCL transformed, has HCL’s image transformed and hence has the business grown? Yes.

Are you facing greater challenges integrating these companies into HCL Tech because of the recession?
Most companies, when they try and do that, they fail, predominantly because they do it at a pace that is not required or they are so obsessed with their own so-called goodness that they ignore the culture and the structure and everything that is good about the acquired company. So, I would say that integration is the least important thing in any acquisition, predominantly because if you are acquiring a successful company, then you should surround them and enable them. So, I change the word integrate to enable. So what we did was, from day one, we reverse-merged our teams into Axon. So actually Axon, which is a high-performance team, bought HCL’s SAP practice, which became HCL Axon.

So, there were no re-designations, no re-orientation of salaries and no restructuring?

Will they never be merged?
Will they be merged if we don’t change our business? Never. Will they be merged if we change business? Yes, because we have acquired Axon, not for its SAP practice alone. We have acquired Axon for two capabilities — consulting capabilities and SAP capabilities. Its SAP capabilities need no merger. As far as consulting is concerned, the bigger question is, where it fits into HCL’s scheme of things. Once we answer that question, then obviously Axon will have to play a deep role in that.

How have you handled the technological, marketing and distribution challenges after the acquisitions?
From a relative point of view — between growing organically and acquisition — acquisition. the way we have constructed it is the least challenging option. However, if you grow using only HCL people, then there are significant challenges regarding cultural integration, ways of working, alignment of objectives… all those issues. But I think options, and I think of the least challenging option.

Technologically, did the two organisations come together? Were they using different sets of technologies?
All business-facing solutions and technologies of HCL have been scrapped and Axon’s have been used. So, the front is only Axon. The back office system is one standard system, which is HCL’s.

(Businessworld Issue Dated 27 April-04 May 2009 -

Friday, April 10, 2009

How to handle a bad boss

It happened again. Maybe the boss broke his or her word, bad-mouthed you, or torpedoed your promotion. You're not surprised. Your boss already ignores your ideas, talks down to you, and expects you to be a mind-reader. And that doesn't even count the eavesdropping. What's worse, your boss won't talk about it with you, telling you to "move on." as if nothing ever happened. OK, you've been saddled with a bad boss.

Having to answer to a boss is a fact of working life. But what are your options when you're undermined by the person whose goodwill you need? Sure, you can lash out or call human resources. Unfortunately, companies are like Vegas casinos: The house always wins. Still, you have options. When the anger starts to boil, consider the following:

Don't act immediately

Initially, you'll want to fight back. You may fantasise about writing a blistering critique of your rotten boss. . . and e-mailing it to the CEO. And those thoughts aren't necessarily harmful. But thoughts don't have to lead to action. Sure, your boss may be small-minded, two-faced, spineless, and technically inept. But would a dramatic gesture be worth the lost salary? Is it worth a hole in your resume, the one you'll be explaining for years to come? This isn't the economy to choose pride over practicality.

Play the game

You were cheated or unfairly smeared. Welcome to the real world. But don't let it turn you sour or sloppy. And don't let your boss get to you, either. Nod and smile when he delivers another self-serving sermon. Maintain a can-do attitude, like you have your dream job. Respect and defer, even when trust is lost. You'll work with plenty of jerks over your career. You may as well start practicing now.


Start collecting references and recommendation letters from clients, peers, industry pros, and local leaders. Keep a file of positive citations to your work too. Even more, focus on activities that position you to lead and produce measurable results. No one can take those experiences away from you. And they'll enhance your credibility when the next opportunity arises.

Forge alliances

Identify the job you eventually want. Get to know the players in that department. Grab lunch with them. Help them out during downtime to prove yourself. Build a relationship with a mentor or your boss's own boss, too. They can provide direction, intelligence, and even a reference. Beyond that, get involved in corporate initiatives, such as community outreach or strategic planning. Your boss has the power and network to blackball you. Stay visible and broaden your circle to counter that.

Don't jump to conclusions

Sometimes, there is more going on than meets the eye. The higher-ups may veto your boss's efforts. Conditions change or extenuating circumstances emerge. Your boss probably has a full plate - and you may not be his or her top priority. And your boss may simply be unaware of his or her behavior and its impact on you.

Bottom line: Management is often grueling and thankless. We all need someone to blame, but give your boss a little empathy. Don't mistake the person for the perception. They're usually far more complex than your caricature.

Keep your boss in the loop

Everyone likes to feel like an expert and give back. Your boss is no different. Maybe you need to reel your boss closer, rather than pushing him or her away. Ask what traits or skills you need to develop to reach the next level. Ask for specifics; look at establishing benchmarks to measure your growth. What's more, become a true partner with your boss.

You know your boss's flaws: Train yourself to ask the right questions, clarify, and work through the details. This is perfect training for what's really important in business: anticipation, flexibility, relationship-building, collaboration, and execution (not to mention making your boss look good).

Focus on the big picture

Your boss will betray your trust, then tell you to stay positive. Your boss will chastise you for your behavior, then act the same way. Sure, you can quit, but have you gained anything besides an ulcer? Instead, make the most of your time. Focus on gaining the right experience, building your interpersonal skills, and policing your attitude. They are your ticket out.

Absorb those daily humiliations, so you never become like your boss. Most important, don't write off the message because of the messenger. Your boss didn't reach this level by accident. Be open to criticisms and suggestions. You'll likely miss some valuable nuggets if you completely tune out your boss.


If your boss really is a jerk, chances are the clock is ticking on him or her. Charm, connections, and reputation only give bosses so much rope. They'll inevitably drop their guard and slip up with someone higher up - and it won't be pretty.

In the meantime, view your job as a means to an end and start laying the groundwork to get there. You have bigger things ahead of you.