The Silicon Valley Voice

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Is Your Office a Petting Zoo?

Really, I can’t imagine why anyone in the workplace wouldn’t like you. You’re smart. You’re good looking. You’re very often on time for work, and when you do show up, you do a lot of work, sometimes, when you’re in the mood. Given all these wonderful, admirable characteristics, the only reason you wouldn’t be the boss’s pet is because that boss is a complete idiot. Uh-oh. You’re in big trouble.

Though most managers do try to be miserable with everyone who reports to them, some bosses play favorites. According to new data from the Corporate Executive Board, cited by columnist Ruth Mantell in “The Wall Street Journal,” “among almost 69,000 U.S. employees surveyed in the first half of the year, 10.2 percent said they had observed preferential treatment within the past 12 months.”

You would have probably observed it, as well, had you not been busy napping.

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Of course, appearances can be deceiving. Just because a boss consistently lets a co-worker go home early, or continually assigns the plum assignments to that particular individual, or calls that individual “fuzzy-bunny,” and brings them a caramel latte every morning, doesn’t mean that the co-worker is the boss’s pet.

On the other hand, your career is sure to suffer if you don’t get the good assignments or the good nick-name. Not that “stupid moron” isn’t a sign of affection.

If you perceive that the boss’s pet is someone who isn’t you, there are steps you can take to put yourself in the petting zoo. According Joel Garfinkle, an executive coach, you shouldn’t get mad; you should get introspective. “When preferential treatment occurs, it’s easy for people to get jealous or resentful,” says Garfinkle. “But it’s important to evaluate yourself and how you are being perceived in the company.”

This is easier said than done. Coach Garfield suggests you start by examining your weaknesses. This might be productive for some people, but since it is generally acknowledged by the voices in your head that you have no weaknesses, how in the world are you going to “figure out how to improve and positively influence co-workers’ perceptions of your work?”

Since you already are the perfect employee, the problem clearly is your tendency to hide yourself at work. While such modesty is to be expected in an exceptional human being like yourself, you may have to shift valuable work time spent playing Angry Birds and use that time to blow your own horn. As Garfinkle advises, “the more details you tell your boss about your accomplishments, the less chance someone else can take credit for your efforts. When you hide yourself, you make others stand out.”

You know what this means — instead of spending all afternoon in the coat closet, your eyes glued to “American Hoggers” on your iPad, you have to stay glued to your desk, reminding everyone within shouting distance just how wonderful you are.

There is another way to move into office-pet position, but it takes sacrifice. You may actually have to start doing some work. In the view of Charles Wardell, the chief executive of an executive search firm, “someone who is willing to stay late, over time…will develop a loyalty and a sense of trust with a superior other people simply don’t have. This is performance-based 99 percent of the time.”

Since you have difficultly in lasting through the typical 8-hour day, it’s difficult to see how you’re going to be at work before your colleagues arrive, and stay past the magic moment when you lead the crowd to the chicken wing buffet at the Kit Kat Klub. Fortunately, the only person whose schedule you have to bracket is your boss’s. Find out what time he or she arrives to work, and what time they leave. You may have to be at work at 6 a.m. and at 8 p.m., too but as long as you make sure the boss sees you at the antipodes of the workday, there’s no reason why you need to be at work in the hours in-between!

Use those extra hours for self-improvement. If your boss is a gourmet chef, you can spend the day at home, watching The Food Network. Just as long as you’re back at your desk at 5 when your co-workers are leaving for home, you’ll have plenty of quality time for after-hour bonding with your boss.

If your effort at work won’t make you the boss’s pet, your Banana Bunt Cake surely will.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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