When people talk about progressing in their careers or performing better at work, they talk about making themselves valuable. In most cases, they mean that their managers must notice the work they are doing so that they can get recognized for the value they create(1).
But once again, we circle around to the same thing. What is ‘value’? Most people associate it with a tangible aspect, such as a product or a quantification of a service. But the value you deliver to customers is usually what you can do to make their lives easier
That sums up to experience. So the logical conclusion is that the number of years of work and the amount of hard work you put in should translate to the value you create, correct? Well, yes and no. Yes, because working hard makes managers understand your dedication.
No, because hard work doesn’t always translate into value. In the end, value trumps the number of years you’ve put or the experience you’ve garnered. Getting the right degrees and certifications might help you step in, but the right relationships(2) do what your academic achievements can’t – progress.
So how do you create value at work?
Attitude Makes a Difference
Attitude makes a huge difference in the workplace. Attitude is how people connect with you. It creates relationships, professional atmosphere, and approachability. Attitude is important because people hire, network, and do business with the ones they like and connect with.
Attitude can manifest itself in several ways.
The ones that managers look for is the dedication towards the work. But dedication is a vague term. It encompasses so many elements. For example, it includes getting out of your comfort zone. But then again, the more we try to define each term, the more we venture into ones that are even more confusing.
When you try to get out of your comfort zone, you do things that you wouldn’t otherwise have done. On any particular day, you can accomplish a hundred things and feel that you have been very productive. But none of those things might have any value attached to them. Management might not even take cognizance of those things because they are part of regular run-of-the-mill business activities. So if a task requires long hours, it is because you’re budgeting for the long run.
As you climb up the ladder, things like emotional quotient, managerial skills, emotional composure become important. As the processes change, it is important to change along with those processes. But that also means that you have to be receptive to feedback. Feedback would include positive and negative elements, as well.
Always Think in Options
The heading is such a broad term that an entire article could be written about it. But let’s try to summarize everything we can from that.
If your manager asks you to do something and you’re not available, don’t apologize for it. You’re entitled to your own free time. But more importantly, don’t say you’re not available.
Say that someone else can replace you and offer suggestions. But doing this is a tricky thing because you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. You don’t want to antagonize your colleagues. Suggesting replacements for your managers tells him that you’re thinking about the company and the future of the team itself.
Every manager has some buttons that you can’t afford to press. Just like that, those managers have some sweet spots as well. If you’re reporting to more than one manager, you need to remember that you’re dealing with three egos.
Many times, with a criss-cross reporting structure(3), the duties tend to overlap. So, how will you deal with a situation so that you don’t have to antagonize anyone manager to please the others? Don’t worry. It’s not an enigma or a conundrum. Each manager has different requirements. Managing all of them shows that you have a holistic approach towards your job. This puts you in a better position to negotiate during performance appraisals.
This brings us to the next point
Cosying Up Versus Performing
Cozying up to your manager might not always get you to the top. There is a difference between mentorship for advancement and flattery to make your way up. In the first one, you’ll receive a lot of advice and guidance on how to perform. In fact, this can be a great way to get the management to notice you.
Managers don’t just hand out promotions(4). They are always observing. While metrics may play an important role in assessing performance, there are a lot of other factors that are at play here. For example, attitude, comportment, and professionalism play an important role in determining whether an employee is ready to take on additional responsibility.
When you cozy up to your boss, there is only so far you can go. You’ll be barking up the wrong tree. By cozying up or using flattery, you’re spending so much time making sure that your boss notices you that you’re not creating a situation for your boss to notice you. So, when the chips fall, your manager does not have a substantial claim to advance your career.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t cozy up to your boss. Some amount of flattery will always do you good. But understand that you’re a professional who’s earned his place in the organization. Flatter him, but not so much that it becomes obvious that you’re cozying up to him. At the end of the day, the goal is to develop a good relationship with your manager while ensuring that there is enough substance to make that relationship stand.
Remember that you’re there to work. If you’re there, you deserve everything that the organization has to offer you. But as the organization changes, you need to adapt too. This might mean reskilling or utilizing organizational resources to make yourself invaluable.
Either way, you are a part of the organization. So when you want to take leave or spend some time with your family, don’t be apologetic. Don’t offer to check your emails or respond to work. It’s your time. Add value, but make sure there’s a person to add value there.