If you want to earn more money, you’ll need to get a promotion.

This is a 10-part series of “Nuggets” to help lay out a path to a better, higher-paid, job that is better fitted to your competencies. But you’ll notice, you’ll have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.


I had a lengthy debate with myself about the title of this Nugget and part of me lost.

The part of me that lost was my emotional half of my mind. My logical half won. Admittedly, after seeing the title in print even my emotional self came on side with it.

This may seem like a silly way to begin this Nugget. Yet, I wanted to illustrate that within ourselves our emotions become powerful and useful components of communications.  The logical mind and the emotional mind are almost always debating. Always, in the end, the emotional mind relinquishes the role of making the final decision to the logical mind; else, we’d be schizophrenic and our behavior would be both volatile and erratic.

In the work environment there almost always is a boss-subordinate relationship at play. Perhaps, an equally useful way to view this is to view every encounter as involving someone with authority and someone without authority, as it pertains to that very specific issue being discussed. In the end, the one with the authority must make the final decision and everyone else must fall in line with that.

When the roles are ignored, disrespected, or unwittingly manipulated into being reversed, communications becomes ineffective and sometimes even uncomfortable.

To make communications work effectively, both parties must appreciate the boundaries of behavior required by each role. Work is not a democracy though the company may be located in a democratic country. Those roles, authorities and boundaries are established by the company. When you sign onto the company and agree to work there, you also agree to abide by the company rules and boundaries, no questions asked. Here are a few examples of workers being conflicted by failing to understand respective roles.

  • Worker has a great idea. Barges into boss’s office to present the idea. Boss says no. Worker is upset and concludes he or she is not appreciated resulting in a downward cascading of time, effort and eventually performance. If the worker had understood that the boss had long ago committed to a budget, to critical priorities, etc., and expected a “No” outcome, the result may have been exploring ways to re-examine the idea at a later date prior to the next closing of budgets, etc. Perhaps, if the boss would have long ago anticipated that his or her employees would generate good ideas and would not appreciate the need to stick to critical priorities and budgets, the boss would be better equipped to more fully explain the limitations and rationale for saying “No”.
  • Long-time manager enters his executive’s office to request a day off, knowing it is short notice, “For family reasons”. The executive probes for more explanations. This can be viewed by the manager as intruding in personal affairs and become a hotly debated emotional issue. If the relative roles are respected, the manager would better appreciate that the executive, as the manager’s boss, has a right to probe in case the executive’s boss inquires about the manager’s sudden absence.
  • Long-time manager enters vice president’s office to explain the downside to, and to recommend a better idea for,  a decision the VP just made. If the manager fails to respect the relative roles, particularly that the vice president has “veto” power, then the manager may become upset when the VP refuses the suggestions from the manager. On the other hand, if the manager remembers that his, or her, job is to suggest good ideas and the VP”s role is to make the final decision, the process and emotional responses can be well contained.

Before you communicate with someone at work take a second or two to quickly profile the communications and the roles of each party:

  1. Is the nature of this communications a request, a suggestion, a critique, etc.?
  2. What role should each of us assume?
  3. Who has the power and authority?
  4. To what extent does that person’s role / authority allow them to make the final decision?
  5. Is it appropriate to encourage a slight change in role without upsetting or disrespecting the current role of either party to this discussion?