Do you deserve the title of Office Junior, Middle Manager or Big Earner? We’ve consulted studies on organisational behaviour and psychological science to see what you are ready for, and what needs to change. Whether you covet the corner office or simply want to clock out at five, these are your steps to that long-awaited salary increase.
Q1/ Why does your boss really want you to work overtime?
A/ He’s deluded
B/ He’s selfish
C/ He’s greedy
A/ It’s true – your boss really has gone mad with power. A University of California study found that authority can distort perception of time, making you feel it’s more abundant. So quit being an office monkey and head for the door on time.
Q2/ A tricky problem comes up at work. What do you do?
A/ Go to the toilet
B/ Walk to the shop
C/ Grab a glass of water
A+B+C/ You just need to get off your backside. A study at Texas A&M University found that we are more attentive and engaged on our feet. Strategies to try include installing a stand-up desk, or going for a short walk when times are testing.
Q3/ How should you address your boss if you want to ask for a favour?
B/ By their name
B/ “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language,” according to the late Dale Carnegie, author of iconic self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People. People love hearing their own name – use it at the start or end of a conversation and they will feel warmer towards you.
Q4/ You’re sure your manager doesn’t like you. What should you do?
B/ Be ultra-friendly
C/ Confront them
C/ A Michigan State University study found that when a tense work relationship was acknowledged by both parties, it resulted in increased happiness and motivation. A simple, “Do you have five minutes to chat?” will work wonders.
Q5/ Do open-plan offices help communication?
Yes/ But they’re awful for, well, almost everything else. The Journal of Environmental Psychology found them to be noisy and distracting. The best work spaces were judged to be cubicles or offices. Short of that that, noise-cancelling headphones are your saviour.
Q6/ You’re on R400k and want a raise. How much should you ask for?
C/ Men who replied to questions about salary expectations with “A million dollars would be nice” were offered a bigger salary increase than candidates who asked for an exact amount or didn’t state their requirements, found a study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. The key is to sound like you’re joking, not attempting some sort of Jedi mind trick, salary increase.
Q7/ What automatically makes you seem more honest, reliable and promotable?
A/ Your age
B/ Your class
C/ Your name
C/ Men with memorable, masculine sounding names are considered more trustworthy and are more likely to get promoted, claims an ABA Journal report. “Familiar” names such as John or David are judged as more reliable. Sorry, Ignatio.
Q8/ How much do overweight men typically earn compared with their more svelte colleagues?
B/ The same
A/ A study in the journal Demography found that overweight men earned 16% less than their average- weight workmates, but, happily, the Harvard Business Review revealed that men who exercise during the working day are more productive.
Q9/ Should you avoid talking about failures in a job interview?
No/ Men who referenced past failures in interviews were more likely to get the job, the Journal of Applied Psychology found. The key is taking ownership of mistakes, evaluating where you went wrong – and explaining how you’d avoid repeating errors.
Q10/ Which of these should you research before an interview?
A/ The company background
B/ The interviewers on Instagram
C/ The average salary
B/ And then mimic his style. According to Dr Karen Pine, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, we feel an instant affiliation with people who dress similarly to us, while blending in with our peers signals cohesiveness and organisation. Not to mention that it’s a subtle form of flattery. Don’t go all Single White Female about it, but do scroll through their social media to get a feel for their personal style.
Q11/ You’re in an interview for your dream job: should you plaster on a fake smile to mask your nerves?
No/ A forced grin is worse than none, according to a study in the Journal of Nonverbal Behaviour. It turns out that even people who are not adept at interpreting body language can identify a fake smile. Think Mona Lisa, not Tom Cruise.
Q12/ What one thing will scupper your chances of smashing that job interview for six?
A/ Looking nervous
B/ Flunking a question
C/ Asking for megabucks
A/ Employers are less likely to hire someone with a bad case of the jitters. Chewing gum will curb stress levels, reports the journal Stress and Health. Before the interview, not during, though.
Q13/ How do you win over a hostile colleague?
A/ Do their work
B/ Flatter them
C/ Buy them lunch
B/ Flattery is the best way to win over an antagonistic workmate, found Kellogg School of Management. But keep it subtle or risk the office brown-nose label.
Q14/ Men who spend more time at home than they do in the office have…
A/ Increased stress levels
B/ Better heart health
C/ Higher job satisfaction
A/ While you might view your home as a refuge from the toils of working life, research at Penn State University found stress-hormone levels are generally lower in the office. The ability to focus on a single task for a designated period plays a big role. Set an agenda – and timer – when working from home.
Q15/ True or false: men who have a career plan feel more optimistic?
False/ A Psychological Science Agenda study found that men who made a career plan and set themselves a list of year-on-year goals were unhappier than men who went with the flow. Why? Because they were guilty of “miswanting” – incorrectly predicting what they’d want in the future. The men who were happiest in their careers were those who focused on the not-too-distant future.
Q16/ Which of these phrases has no place on a successful CV?
A/ Under budget
C/ Team player
C/ Abstract resume buzzwords – including “hard worker” and “synergy” – were the main turn-offs in a survey of 2 000 hiring managers by job site CareerBuilder. Successful CVs contained specific achievements (see A & B). True “go-getters” shouldn’t need to spell it out.
Q17/ Should you script answers to popular interview questions?
No/ It’s fine to practise, but don’t revise standard replies: an Institute of Work and Organisational Psychology study found that men who gave offbeat answers were more likely to be offered the job, as they were more memorable than those who replied parrot-fashion.
Q18/ You can’t get your boss to listen to you in meetings. What should you do?
A/ Make eye contact
B/ Try beforehand or afterwards
C/ Be more “alpha”
B/ Bosses often ignore their subordinates’ good ideas because it makes them feel insecure, according to a University of Southern California study. Try scheduling some one-on-one time.
Q19/ You’ve got five minutes before a big meeting with the boss. Do you…
A/ Have a cup of tea?
B/ Act like Superman?
C/ Empty your bladder?
B/ Doing the Superman power pose – arms manfully on your hips, chest out, standing tall – raises your levels of confidence-boosting testosterone by 20%, according to Harvard Business School research.
Q20/ What makes the most important first impression in a job interview?
A/ A sharp navy-blue suit
B/ Neat facial hair
C/ A firm handshake
C/ Your handshake provides a vital insight to your character, University of Iowa research shows. Follow it up with small talk on positive topics: the University of Philadelphia found it makes you 33% more likeable. The listener subconsciously attributes the positivity to you.
READ MORE: 5 Ways to Achieve Classic Style
Q21/ A window seat buys you how many extra minutes sleep?
A/ Office workers exposed to natural light sleep more soundly than those who sit six metres or more from a window, Northwestern University found. They also had higher energy levels. So a good view really can renew you.
Q22/ Where’s the perfect place for a chat with your boss?
A/ Their office
B/ A cafe
C/ Walking the corridor
B/ But avoid trendy cold brew – it won’t help you here. Studies by Yale University found that when you talk to someone as they sip a hot drink, they subconsciously transfer those warm feelings towards you, viewing you as more likeable.
Q23/ And what time of day should you approach them?
B/ Whether you’re gunning for a promotion – or simply a desk chair that won’t lead to a misshapen spine – ask your boss after lunch. A study by Ohio State University correlated low blood sugar to increased hostility. Can’t set the meeting time? Pastries are your power move.
How Did You Score?
0-10 – Office Junior: You need to be more of a player. A study in Organisational Behaviour found that men who viewed interviews and salary negotiations as a game scored bigger pay rises, as they took more risks. Be bold – it could be your lucky day. And if you’re not there yet, Ineed.com reports that you need to pose multiple propositions to your employer; if your salary increase request gets turned down, perhaps you’d like to work from home more days per week? Read more here.
11-19 – Middle Manager: Take a shortcut to the top. Try a red tie when you want to make an impression at work: a study in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research found it makes others see you as focused, committed and trustworthy.
20+ – Big Earner: A parting tip: if you want people to toe the line, make them keep their desks tidy, but if you want them to be creative, messy is best, reports Psychological Science. Failing that, have a word with the cleaner to get your team onside.