We’ve all experienced it, whether it is well-founded or not. That gut-wrenching feeling that we’re about to be replaced. Sometimes the signs are obvious. Explicit complaints have been filed against you by coworkers or customers. Your manager has given you a poor review. More often than not, however, the signs are less apparent. Your boss has hired someone with your exact skill set. There’s been a decay of communication between you and your boss. You’re not being tasked with lofty, high-profile projects.
A sure-fire way to continue to rise through the ranks, before it’s too late, is to ensure your boss is made aware of your value.
1. Understand how you are being measured.
A 2016 Gallup poll revealed that only about half of all workers strongly indicate that they know what is expected of them in the workplace. In his book Deep Work, author Cal Newport defines this phenomenon as the “metric black hole”. In metric black hole situations, employees who are bent on proving their value typically resort to working in a highly visible (rather than highly valuable) manner. Newport explains, "In the absence of clear indicators of what it means to be productive and valuable in their jobs, many knowledge workers turn back toward an industrial indicator of productivity: doing lots of stuff in a visible manner." The end result is less than impressive in the eyes of your boss.
Engage in an open discussion with your boss about what success looks like. Clarify and come to terms with what your boss deems important. Understand how you will be measured and how to exceed expectations. To what extent is customer retention important? What about efforts directed at product innovation, organizational productivity, optimizing team dynamics, and the like?
2. Exhibit a high level of EQ.
One of the most overlooked, yet critical, factors in your career advancement trajectory is emotional intelligence (EQ). EQ speaks to one's ability to recognize and regulate his/her own and other's emotions. Increasingly, it is trumping IQ in promotion decisions. A 2011 CareerBuilder survey found that 75% of managers and HR professionals are more likely to promote an employee with a high EQ and (comparatively speaking) lower IQ as compared to an individual with a high IQ and (comparatively speaking) lower EQ.
One of the most effective means of differentiating yourself from coworkers is to demonstrate a high EQ. When you're tasked with your next significant project, make every effort to demonstrate high EQ. Be aware of your emotions and self-regulate them, exude empathy, and build strong relationships throughout the process. Say you've been tasked to bring a new product to market. It's an enormous success. But, in the process, you've snapped at members of the marketing team, reacted impulsively to a crisis, and failed to listen to your boss' suggestion to refine a feature. Your boss won't be thrilled.
EQ becomes more important and relevant as you move up the career ladder. You'll be managing more people and will need to consistently demonstrate empathy. You'll be given more responsibility and will need to respond with composure in stressful situations. If your boss isn't confident that you're up for the challenge, you'll go overlooked for promotions.
3. Make time for face time.
The workplace has undergone a significant transformation over the past decade. Telecommuting is on the rise and flexible work schedules have curtailed the time we spend face-to-face with coworkers (face time). While these flexible arrangements may boost our productivity levels, they may simultaneously jeopardize our career advancement potential.
A study published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that bosses are strongly influenced by employees’ “passive face time”, defined as the mere presence of someone’s face on a regular basis. “To be credited with passive face time you need only be observed at work; no information is required about what you are doing or how well you are doing it.” Bosses were more likely to think positively of employees with high levels of face time, classifying them as more “dependable,” “responsible,” “committed,” and “dedicated." Kimberly Elsbach, one of the authors of the study, explains, “People make these trait attributions unconsciously and spontaneously.” She adds, “They don't know they’re doing it, yet when it comes time to make performance appraisals, those people are benefited by those kinds of attributions.”
Whether we like it or not, we’re being evaluated by the extent to which we are physically present in front of our boss and coworkers. If you want to get noticed, it's prudent to increase your face time. In instances where you must be physically separate from your boss, opt for video meetings instead of phone calls, emails, and chat when possible.
No matter how strong your intentions are or how hard you work, if your boss doesn't appreciate your value, your advancement trajectory will be stifled. An executive coach can assist you in demonstrating your worth. Coaching aimed at increasing your EQ is but one investment that will put you on a path to success.
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at