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Just let shining stars shine
Winslow Wong | 13 Oct 2017 00:30

Can and should you outshine your boss? I posed this simple yet thought-provoking question to a group of managers attending my training recently, and the answers given were somewhat mixed. A young woman, who had just been promoted to head a small team comprising mainly millennials, said it’s a taboo to outshine your boss, aka master.

Calling it simple boss-subordinate psychology, she quoted Baltasar Gracian, a 17th century Spanish Jesuit and baroque prose writer and philosopher, who said: “Avoid outshining the master. The superiority of a subject over his prince is not only stupid, it is fatal. This is a lesson that the stars in the sky teach us. They may be related to the sun and just as brilliant, but they never appear in her company.”

She boldly and firmly defended her strong view with cogency and intelligence, explaining it’s unwise in any situation to outshine your boss by appearing too clever, perfect or skilled. Instead, make sure you get occasional advice from your boss to make him or her appear more intelligent than you, besides enjoying the feeling of having helped and guided you. “Also, make sure that, if you’ve succeeded in any way in your work, you should give some credit to your boss – and do it publicly!” she declared.