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Watch Out Deepak & Oprah: Life Lessons From BUTB

Over the last six months, I’ve shared a few tips and tricks that hopefully have helped you on your journey in becoming a great manager, beloved by all of your underlings. I’ve received lots of great feedback, with a large amount of feedback centered around how Bringing Up The Boss is applicable to dating, marriage, friendship and interacting with your mother.* As such, for our end-of-year wrap-up, here’s a listicle of ways to apply Bringing Up The Boss to managing the new year and your life outside of your cubicle / co-working space / coffee-shop / corner office with floor-to-ceiling windows.

1. The Abilene Paradox: Remember the Abilene Paradox? It’s the phenomenon that occurs when a group of people make a decision that is counter to the preferences of the individuals of the group. Um….sound like every New Year’s Eve plans you’ve ever had? Yes, you know, those plans where you find yourself at a random club at 2:30 am with a bunch of 21-year-olds, where you all of a sudden have a moment of clarity, look around and think “what am I doing with my life?”. There is still time to break the Abilene Paradox by speaking up, being a devil’s advocate and stating what everyone else is thinking: “I would please like to spend New Year’s Eve on my couch watching Sleepless in Seattle eating Chinese food.”

2. The Spotlight Effect: Okay, so let’s say you weren’t able to break the Abilene Paradox and ended up at a horrible NYE party. Remember the Spotlight Effect? It’s the simple notion that we think people are paying more attention to us than they actually are. So guess what you can do if you’re stuck at a horrible party? Leave! Deploy the old Irish exit, mention that you are going to the bathroom and then never look back. A wise woman gave me an incredible tip as we were both trying to sneak away from a recent holiday party: always keep your jacket jammed in your purse for optimal Irish exiting. You’re welcome for changing your life!

3. The Airport Test: We tend to make rash romantic decisions around the holidays, mainly as a hedge against having to spend next year’s holidays alone with our crazy families. We picture ourselves 20 years from now getting in the same fights we’ve had since we were 15, panic, and immediately text / call / propose to our nearest romantic partner - a proverbial life raft amongst our family’s sea of dysfunction. I implore you….remember the Airport Test? It’s our subconscious bias and tendency to grasp onto people based on shared, superficial characteristics (love of The New Yorker, obsession with Trader Joe’s, mutual friends), and believe that these characteristics obviously make for a great fit! Why wouldn’t you want to base a life-long partnership on the fact that you and the guy you just met BOTH LOVE RADIOLAB? Well, like interviewing, rash romantic decisions based on the airport test do not end well. Happy interviewing! (I mean, dating!)

4. Goal-Setting & Loss Aversion: So if you survived the holidays and New Year’s Eve, you’re probably going to wake up on January 1st and like the diligent A-typers we all are, make a list of 2019 life goals. My dears, lest you forget the downsides of goal-setting? Goals make you feel awful when you miss them (remember loss aversion)? “I only exercised four times this week instead of my hard and fast goal of six times a week; therefore I should just quit.” Goals narrow your line of sight and prevent you from seeing things outside the bounds of those goals. For example, you’re so focused on your goal of promotion, you fail to realize an amazing, random job opportunity. Or, you’re so focused on your goal of finding a life partner, you fail to make a great new friend. So my humble advice, just throw out those new year’s resolutions.

5. Job Crafting: I know, I know...the notion of no resolutions is anathema to you diligent planners! What can you do instead? Remember job crafting? It’s the awesome tool of looking at all of the components of your job and reframing them in the context of the capabilities and bigger outcomes you are building beyond the straightforward tasks. Well, what about doing some life crafting? Map out all of the facets of your life - work, friends, partners, family, hobbies (wait, scratch that - does anyone actually have a real hobby?) - and reframe how these pieces fit together with how you want to live your life as a whole. A nameless little bird mentioned how she took the job crafting framework to do some marriage crafting - apparently it worked great! (Well, according to her...I have no idea what her husband thinks…)

6. Expectation Setting: All of the life-crafting in the world is not going to matter if the people around us have no idea what we are thinking or what we want. Let me remind you of the absolute best gem of a quote: “An unarticulated expectation is a disappointment guaranteed.” By now you’ve probably mastered making your expectations crystal clear to your team members...but have you mastered making your expectations crystal clear to your partner, family, and friends?

  • Saying: “I’m totally cool with just hanging out. I’m like, totally chill with no labels.”

  • Thinking: “I expect to be engaged by Q1, married by Q3, and with a little one by Q4.”

Make your thinking visible!

7. Feedback: And, what if, despite crystal clear expectations, disappointment continues to abound? Remember our very first lesson: Feedback is a gift. Start from a place of data, state how the actions made you feel, and articulate ways to change behavior.

Scenario 1:

  • “I noticed that you did not help with any of the Christmas meal preparation and clean up. I observed that you went “missing” at exactly the same time I needed someone to drive my parents to the airport.”

  • “This made me feel that I have made a horrible life choice, that all of my decisions up until now should not be trusted, and that my mother, for once, was right.”

  • Pause for clarification

  • “Moving forward, I would appreciate it if you contributed just a teeny tiny bit to running this household. Literally. Anything.”

Scenario 2:

  • “I observed that you have not responded to any of my text messages that I have sent over the last two weeks. I observed that you did not even respond to my message asking if you were okay and if perhaps all of your phone contacts got deleted given that you have T-Mobile.”

  • “This made me feel worried that you are potentially injured or missing. This also made me feel like modern technology cannot be trusted and that i-Message sometimes loses texts. This also made me feel like perhaps you are not actually interested in a relationship, but I can’t imagine this is actually the case???”

  • Pause for clarification

  • Continues to pause for clarification

  • More pausing for clarification

  • “Darn it. Ghosted again.”

8. Attribution Theory: But probably the most important lesson from BUTB to bring into 2019 is around Attribution Theory. We attribute others’ shortcomings to intrinsic qualities, but attribute our own shortcomings to external environmental factors. We’re not late because we’re lazy, we’re late because the Uber got lost. Yet our late friend is disrespectful. Our sibling is selfish. Our conservative neighbor is ignorant. Our partner is a slob (well, that one might be true.) So, march down the Ladder of Inference - the ladder we climb when we immediately infer things, often untrue, about others - and work to understand where others are coming from before passing judgment.

Happy 2019! Hope it’s filled with lots of optimism, a dash of realism, and plenty of life-contemplating power waddles!


  • No longer do you need to listen to Oprah and Deepak Chopra to understand how to live a fulfilled existence, rich with positive relationships, that lets your authentic self shine through.

  • This is because Bringing Up The Boss can be applied to every facet of your life.

  • Happy New Year!

*Special thanks to Marie Lariviere who always figures out how to apply BUTB to marriage and dating, and always shares that with me.


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