Hands down, the most common reason I hear for not being noticed at work is that the person is quietly “waiting” to be noticed. If that’s not bad enough, here’s the worst part – these individuals have turned the process of waiting into a noble and righteous stance. They “shouldn’t have to promote” themselves, they tell me. They are “above politics” they argue. Only the “sleaziest of (their) co-workers self promote” they proclaim. So there they sit. Noble, righteous and largely unnoticed at work – overlooked time and time again as promotions pass them by. Their frustration builds day by day. They are tea kettles nearing the boiling point and when they blow, it won’t be pretty.
Here are two great stories of how the good intentions for waiting (at least what we tell ourselves) cost us more than they get us.
Amir’s Story – I’m not going to play politics
“I’m not playing politics!” Amir made his stance very clear. Amir had been with his current company for nearly 8 years after getting his MBA. Initially, Amir rose in the ranks quickly but his career has stalled the last few years. Amir seemed to rationalize this career stall with his view on playing politics, “I despise politics and I refuse to play. If people want my opinion, I’m gonna tell them. Straight up. I’m not mincing words.” As a result, Amir’s boss has consistently provided Amir feedback in recent years that in this organization, the higher up he goes, the more time Amir needs to spend on bringing others with him and the more thoughtful Amir needs to be with his words. It was to the point that Amir’s boss pulled me aside and told me, “if Amir doesn’t make the adjustments, he won’t be able to go any further than where he is right now. His career here has peaked.”
Is this you? Have you decided that any efforts to get noticed equate to “playing politics”? Are you refusing to take any action? Consider the following perspectives:
• Get over yourself – Time to get off your “high horse” and accept the fact that if you are going to get anywhere in any organization of any size, you’re gonna have to build relationships with the right people. That, unfortunately, is politics… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. Politics by itself is morally neutral – it’s up to you on how you want to play.
• Promote… just don’t self promote – Don’t look at this process as promoting yourself. That’s an easy way to turn you off (and who can blame you!). Look at this as promoting others. Those individuals that are the very best at getting noticed do two things when it comes to promotion: They promote the business (sell ideas to make the business better) and they try to promote their boss (they work to make their boss look good). Promote others and you’ll be noticed quickly.
But what if you are not getting noticed because you don’t like the spotlight? You want your work to speak for itself and do all the speaking for you. Consider Joy’s story:
Joy’s Story – I prefer to work alone
Joy couldn’t stand meetings, networking, and really any work-related event that involved more than one other person. An introvert at heart, Joy desperately wanted to believe a basic ideal that we all deep down wish was true: “my work will speak for itself.” Joy would spend as many minutes in the day as possible holed up in her office, working diligently – just her and her computer. She worked hard without question. Often the first one in the office and the last one to leave, Joy was committed to her job and the organization. The problem that Joy was facing was twofold: First, it was unclear if others knew about her level of commitment and contribution. Second, Joy wanted more. She had been with the organization for nearly 3 years and still held the same position as when she started. So, Joy mustered up some courage and took some action. She decided she would go for the next internal opportunity that would be in line with the next logical step in her career. The perfect opportunity came. She applied… and was summarily rejected. Joy was so angry that she resigned on the spot. Stunned, her manager tried to convince Joy to stay. Joy couldn’t understand how others could not have noticed all of her hard work, her level of commitment and reward her accordingly. After all, she shouldn’t have to ask for what she deserved? Right? Wrong.
If you can relate to Joy’s story, there are several things you need to consider before it’s too late:
• No one is thinking about you – If you are thinking that your manager and co-workers are secretly watching you and everyone else in the office and quietly evaluating them (like you do), you are mistaken. Most everyone else is worrying about “numero uno” – themselves. So, if you want to be noticed, waiting to be seen is not your best strategy.
• Avoid the “love test” – a mentor of mine describes this behavior as a “love test”. Here’s how the “love test” works. The giver of the “test” quietly does things for others, secretly waiting to be reciprocated even though they never once asked for anything in return. When the receiver of the “test” does not guess properly and reciprocate the giver in the way the giver wanted, the receiver not only fails the test (“clearly they must not love me”), they are then summarily punished (to the receiver’s surprise I might add… they never saw it coming). Don’t punish others because they didn’t guess what you wanted. Make it clear what you want and expect from the beginning.
Waiting to be noticed never plays well for anyone. At best you are stuck in a role for far too long. At worst, you become frustrated, angry and appear unpredictable when your top blows. Figure out what you want, begin asking for it, and build relationships along the way. The more people who know what you want, more likely you are to get it!