Remember VH1’s show “Behind the Music”? A fantastic and over-the-top show about the life of a rock star. Each show followed the same predictable formula: an aspiring rocker has a meteoric rise to fame and fortune, and then for various reasons (often self-induced), has an equally noteworthy fall to the bottom. The show would then conclude with a “where are they now” segment. Often our rocker would miraculously climb back to his or her previous fame and fortune. Other times he or she simply settled down to a comfortable life of frightening suburbanites at the neighborhood swimming pool. While we would all love to emulate these rockers’ meteoric rise in our own respective careers, I think you would agree with me that we would rather not partake in any catastrophic falls.
This brings us to a very important question: what are the signs that we are on the descent at work? How do we know when we begin to lose our fans and our fame is waning at the office? Here are a few warning signs:
- No more applause – You used to get frequent kudos from your boss, but now – nothing. Nada. Just silence. Be very concerned with prolonged periods of silence. In the best cases, the boss may just be overwhelmed and can’t think of anything other than his or her own workload. However, in the worst cases it can be much worse. It could mean her or she is intentionally distancing him or herself from you in preparation for laying you off. This is a common self-protective practice with any boss prior to a lay-off in order to make the conversation less painful for him or her… but not necessarily lest painful for you.
- No more gigs – You begin to notice that you are not getting asked to take on the big projects like you once were. At first, you are relieved because you were getting burnt out with the pace you were keeping at work (touring is tough, huh?). But, be wary. If being overlooked for projects becomes a trend, you could be in trouble – regardless of the reason you are given by your boss. Worse yet, if you begin to have work taken away and eventually find yourself with less work than your co-workers, you are losing relevance. Losing relevance means losing a job. Soon you’ll be playing in dive bars if you don’t watch out. Keep pace with everyone else’s workloads at a minimum.
- You are no longer cool – There was a time when the organization couldn’t get enough of you and people like you. Be careful. In business, just like in music, there are trends, fashions and tastes that come in and out of favor. For example, there was a time in the mid-to-late 1990’s that if you had any knowledge of a computer and networking, you could name your price. Companies were throwing money and perks (even cars in some cases) to lure folks to their emerging I.T. departments. Today, the supply meets the demand. Graduates with degrees in information systems and computer engineering are running the show. Salaries are stable and being up to speed on the latest technology is no longer a differentiator – it is a requirement. Are you up to speed on the latest in your industry? Is your role and function still “cool?” Or are you suffering the fate of big hair bands of the ‘80’s? You may need to change your image before you are thrown out with last year’s fashions. Relevance is more important today than ever.
Any of these warning signs could mean danger so be on the lookout. On the flip side, what does it look like when you are on the rise in your organization? The opposite of all the warning signs above: you are regularly given kudos by your boss, you are given big problems to tackle in recognition of your superstar status and you have a unique skill set that is coveted by others inside and outside of your organization. If all of those positive aspects describe work for you today, your job is simple. Work your tail off to stay there. Being a rock star over time is no easy task. It involves hard work and constant vigilance for the warning signs of eventual decline, a responsibility that is solely yours. Don’t expect your manager to tell you, because they won’t (more on that in the next post).
Summing all of this up, looking for the warning signs that we may be losing our fans is critical to staying relevant and avoiding unwanted surprises (like a layoff) at work. Keep watch. If you aren’t careful, you may find yourself playing in local dive bars and hanging out by the neighborhood pool frightening the neighbors. Trust me, no one wants that.