Know Your Workplace Currency to Get Ahead

Doing a good job may not be the way to get ahead.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #393

You can still go home early, but people will think you're shirking.

Discern Your Workplace Priorities

Next, you need to get your workplace priorities straight. Find out what matters to the people who are in charge at work. To figure out how merit is awarded at Green Growing Things, Sam need not look further than the chain of command. Who gets promoted into what positions? What are their skills? Who do they eat lunch with? What are their dietary restrictions?

Look and learn! Understanding workplace priorities is all about observation. Look around your workplace at who’s successful and what they do to get there, other than being productive.

Sam stakes out the plant store for a week and realizes that everyone in positions of power seem to chat with Bernice regularly, giving her status updates and making it clear how devoted they are to the store. The currencies at play are communication and devotion.

Decide Where to Put Your Efforts

Now, compare your priorities and the company’s priorities. If they don’t line up, you’ll need to reconcile them. Look at your two lists and pull out the priorities and currencies that you share with the company. Those will be the places where your efforts will, indeed, be valued in the way that you’ve come to expect. Yay! Status quo works!

Now look at the workplace priorities that aren’t personal priorities. Since these are the keys to the kingdom where you work, decide which of them you’re willing to pay attention to, even though you may be sacrificing some personal priorities. If face time matters, then face it (see what I did there?): face time is as much part of your job as finishing your work. You can still decide to go home early, but you’ll understand why others perceive you as shirking part of your job. 

Sometimes you can find compensating strategies. If Sam still wants to take a couple of days off, it can be done by catching up on the communication and devotion currencies. A few choice conversations with Bernice making sure she’s up-to-date, and thoughtfully expressing how important Green Growing Things is to Sam may be all that it takes to get Bernice to view the 2-day vacation as evidence of Sam’s productivity, rather than evidence of slacking.

Irreconcilable Differences Lead to Divorce

It’s possible that there’s no overlap between your priorities and your company’s priorities. Plus, you may not want to devote effort to the currencies that your workplace does value. In that case, it’s time to start honing your resume and looking around for another job. Ultimately realizing that it would be too great a burden to communicate and be devoted, Sam decided that there was too big a mismatch with Green Growing Things' priorities. Sam quit, joined Goldman Socks, and pioneered a line of fabulously successful overpriced stockings.

If you find yourself working hard, doing everything right, and still being passed over for promotion, reassess. Look at your own priorities and what you think your job is. Then look around to see what actually gets rewarded in your company. Confront the difference and, if you really want a successful career at your company, change the game you’re playing to the game that the company truly values. 

This is Stever Robbins. I help people be Extraordinarily Productive, and build extraordinary careers. If you want to know more, visit SteverRobbins.com

Work Less, Do More, and Have a Great Life!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT. 

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