Sorry. You Are Not Indispensible.

We all see ourselves as the hub of our own universe.  This is not a bad thing–and it is natural.  It does create blind spots, however. When we evaluate our importance to the organization it is through our own eyes.  We know what we do, did and frequently compare our performance against our peers (and even our managers).  The thing is, everyone is doing the same.  Let me try to be clearer.

My Perspective

When I work late to finish the report that is due tomorrow, I feel virtuous.  I gave up dinner with my friends to make sure the report got done.  I went to the extra effort to talk to all the affected departments and get their input (and that is what took so long and why I had to stay late to finish it before tomorrow).  I am aware that I went over and above, doing special research to make sure all my recommendations were right and would work.  I worked extra hard on the graphs and had to teach myself some new techniques in Excel and PowerPoint (again, that probably contributed to why I had to stay late to get it done).  My intent and goal is for this report to be perfect.  I don’t know exactly what it is to be used for, but whatever that is, I want whoever uses it to be blown away by how good it is.  This organization is very lucky to have someone who cares so much and works so hard.  What would they do without me?

My Boss’s Perspective

The report was on time.  It looked pretty thorough, but it was pretty detailed and there wasn’t a concise Executive summary.  It was a little off point of what I was looking for, but I can use it.

So What Causes This Kind of Disconnect?

What I Should Have Done:

  • Before even starting, I should have been VERY clear on what the purpose of the report was, who the audience was, what the report would be used for, and what its relative importance was.
  • It is completely fine to develop new skills (Excel, Powerpoint) in the process of creating work product, but that is on you–not on your organization, especially if the product of those new skills is not specifically necessary for the product you are creating.  The fact that it caused me to have to work late to create the report is not a reason for the organization to be happy with me.
  • Perfectionism can get you into more trouble than it is worth sometimes.  I should have made the report good enough to satisfy the goal, but I should not have spent a lot of extra time making it perfect–unless there was some reason (outside of my standards) for it to be perfect.
  • I need to appreciate the fact that my standards–working hard, working long hours, learning new skills, making sure I’ve talked to everyone and was inclusive, and that the report was perfect–do not (usually) translate into the organization’s view of my performance (or my indispensability).
  • I need to be understand that my boss is not aware of my intent, my hard work, my learning, or my extra effort unless someone tells him/her.  It is not inherently obvious from my work product.
  • Meeting the goal of the assignment precisely and specifically for the intended audience is WHAT COUNTS.

What My Boss Should Have Done

  • My boss should have been very clear about the goal, purpose and audience for the assignment.
  • My boss should have been clear about any expectations of over and above/extra effort.
  • My boss should have made efforts to understand how hard I worked to meet the goal.
  • My boss should have found ways to give me constructive feedback and to appreciate my effort in order to motivate me to continue to work toward getting better.

Next Time

The next time you notice that you are congratulating yourself on how hard you’re working, on how great your work is and on how indispensable you are, ASK YOURSELF if your boss sees it the same way.  Ask yourself if you DELIVERED what was needed, when it was needed, for the intended goal.  Because when you consistently deliver exactly what is needed, when it is needed, maybe you can become indispensable.

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Filed under Career Development, Communication, Executive Development, Reframe, Success

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