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Big Boss Man

You know who has a really good job? Your boss! Not only do bosses have you under their thumbs, they also have you on hand to make them look good, 24/7.

There’s only one answer to this untenable situation — you need a new job. But not just any job. You need the boss’s job.

It’s not an impossible dream, as a recent Career Strategies column in The Wall Street Journal proves. Reporter Dennis Nishi rounded up the usual experts for a coffee klatch on the best moves to make if you want to move into your boss’s job.

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The article kicks off with the story of Laura Crandall, “a spa coordinator at a luxury resort,” who “got a sense that her boss was unhappy and thinking of moving on.” By “volunteering for more work, pursuing mentorships and attending management seminars,” Crandall was ready, willing and available when her boss threw in the towel and moved to that big hot tub in the sky.

Unfortunately, Crandall must have been equally unhappy with the boss’s job, since she has given up the position she fought a year to obtain to become a “workplace communication consultant.” I don’t know what a workplace communication consultant does, but it has apparently made her happier than skimming leafy debris and unruly guests out of the luxury spa.

What’s the lesson to be learned here? Before you risk your sanity by volunteering for more work and attending too many management seminars — and, frankly, one is too many — ask yourself if taking on your miserable boss’s miserable responsibilities will make you unhappy, too. It could happen, and don’t forget, as boss, you won’t have you to blame.

Assuming you still want to go ahead with the big move, Nishi advises that a “recommendation from your boss is the best way to land a promotion, so start earning that support by letting him or her know that you are interested in advancing — just don’t sound like you’re planning a coup.”

Not exactly easy peasy. How are you supposed to present this proposition to a manager who is already so paranoid that he thinks he’s the reason the Angry Birds are angry? You could try, “Boss, I’m going after your job, but don’t stress over it. You can take your time in leaving. Next week is plenty soon enough.”

Keeping the boss calm will definitely not be easy when you take the next step in your job grab plan — “learn what the boss does,” Nishi writes, “by following his or her daily routine.”

While it will be interesting to finally learn what it is that your boss actually does, if anything, it is advisable to keep the surveillance secret. A 600-mm super-telephoto lens is a little bulky, but it’s excellent for taking snapshots of your boss from across the office or from outside a bedroom window. If you’re diligent and lucky, you may even find yourself with photographic evidence of executive hanky-panky, which could accelerate the boss’s exit from the company, as well as providing you with a nice chunk of change to buy the Gucci wardrobe you’ll need when you ascend the throne.

You are also advised to “immerse yourself in industry trends so you can casually converse fluently about company issues and make thoughtful contributions during meetings.” If this is too much trouble, you can also make an impression by raising your hand in meetings and saying, “I’ll tell you the solution to this problem — outsourcing. We can cut costs 95 percent by moving this job to Bangalore.” Fortunately, it doesn’t matter what the job is. The No. 1 goal of a boss today is to outsource every job in the company, except, of course, their own.

“Don’t try to compete with your boss or show him or her up,” according to reporter Nishi after interviewing a Miami executive coach. “You don’t want to appear ruthlessly single-minded.”

I couldn’t disagree more. Ruthlessness is a highly valued commodity in corporate America, and the sooner top management sees that your current boss is a wimp, he’ll be packing his boxes and you’ll be moving into the corner office. And once you become the big boss man, do pay attention. If your direct reports tell you they’re interested in advancing, start following you around and are very concerned for your happiness, you know the solution — outsource the buggers! If they can nab your job from Bangalore, they deserve it.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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