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Hacking Work: Managing Up

Most people are *already* hacking their work, but just don’t know it. Most of the time this has to do with what are called "soft hacks," or hacks that involve changing your relationship with others. We all have to deal with bureaucracy day to day, but soft hacks work around those rules through your everyday relationships.

For example, one assistant we spoke to was constantly being asked by her boss to supply cash for the team’s coffees and the like ― instead of drawing the funds out of petty cash. Then she got saddled with the paperwork of applying for reimbursements, along with a 30-to-90 day wait to get her money back. All this because her boss was scatter-brained. He was a nice guy, just too disorganized to deal with anything as petty as petty cash.

Hacking opportunity: Her boss always left his cash and other personal items scattered around his office, and he constantly asked her to tidy it up for him.

Hack: She got a nice-looking box from storage and, while tidying up his office, slipped a couple of his own twenty-dollar bills into the box. The next time he needed some cash, she whipped out his own money for him to spend. He was so taken with both the box and the available cash that, after they talked about where the money came from, he stopped needing his office tidied ― or for his assistant to front him any money.

It’s an interesting hack because it relies on providing a service in exchange for a fault ― her actions and the conversation afterwards helped him realize the impact of his bad habits… and that a little organization could help him be a better manager. Her workaround ― using his cash and organizing a sustainable solution to the situation for him ― won her a lot of appreciation, and no more need to apply for reimbursements.

Solving someone else’s problems in a way that solves your own is an elegant hack indeed, because you both win.

Bill Jensen and Josh Klein are releasing Hacking Work through Portfolio Penguin on Sept. 23 ― a book on how and why to break the rules to create more success for you, your customers and your company.