Dear Mr. Molloy:
I am writing you from Honolulu Hawaii while sitting on my balcony overlooking the ocean while most my fellow engineers rooms are on the other side of the hotel with a view of the street. Getting a room on the side of the hotel is a sure sign that my bosses appreciate my work.
I just came from a presentation where the speaker told us that to get ahead in corporate America you have to kiss up. He did not say those words but that was his message. When I asked him where he got his information he said your blog. I disagree with you. While I treat most people very well most of the time, I do not put up with nonsense or stupidity. When I see either I speak up.
In my opinion the first and most important rule is if you want your boss to like you, it’s necessary to be very smart and a good worker. My IQ puts me in the top 1% of the population and I get most of my projects done on time. It is not necessary to do anything else.
You’re right the first rule if you want your boss to like you is to be a very good worker. Our research showed that bosses often like people liked by others. However, there are exceptions to that rule, and one of the few exceptions to the rule was Hank. He worked with a team of fourteen engineers in the aerospace industry. When I interviewed those engineers and their supervisor the first time, Hank’s fellow employees were not too happy with him. They found him obnoxious, pushy, arrogant, and sometimes rude. He made a habit of showing off how bright he was, often at the expense of others, and some people never forgave him for it. Hank was a mathematical whiz.
When I spoke to the team leader he said that he liked Hank because he got the job done. If they had a mathematical problem, Hank would solve it, usually as they explained it to him. The boss went on to praise Hank. He told of one occasion when Hank was flipping through a project that was about to be finalized and he spotted a mistake in the figures. They had to stay up all night and reconfigure the entire project. The boss said if Hank had not noticed the mathematical error, the company would have had a serious problem, and it could have negatively affected its relationship with a major client. He concluded, “Hank is a wonderful employee and I like him very much.”
In their department engineers were regularly reassigned when they finished a project. They did not necessarily work for or with the same people. I returned to interview a second group of engineers a year later. I found that the same manager had Hank on his team but when I questioned him this time he was very critical of his mathematical genius. He described Hank using the same unpleasant terms as his co-workers had used a year earlier. I asked the manager when he discovered that Hank was a difficult employee, he said, “I always knew he was, but I needed him. Hank was the mathematical whiz who held this team together.” I asked what had changed, and he said a new engineer was as good with math as Hank and was a nice fellow. Keep in mind, if you are a genius but unpleasant, the minute the next genius comes along, your boss may get rid of you. That is what happened to Hank.
Keep in mind. if there are 500 employees in your company statistically five of them will have an IQ similar to yours. If you have 500 engineers you are likely to find more than five in the top 1% because engineers tend to have above-average intelligence. There’s no question your high IQ is an asset but with your attitude you seem to be turning it into a liability. That is not something a really bright person would do.