When you have a positive relationship with your boss, many wonderful and career-enhancing things—opportunities, praise, promotions, pay increases—are possible. Your life as an employee is easier, you have more impact, and you’re in a stronger position to drive your career forward. When I think of the benefits of having a positive relationship with your boss, I come up with an acronym that spells the word “help.”
The frequency and pace of change in your organization, the exponential growth of your professional transparency, your lack of energy to connect with others while employed (visibility), and your lack of energy regarding your performance assessment (value), all create professional risks for you. With increased turbulence in your organization resulting in roles, responsibilities, and relationships changing with great frequency, your ability to benefit from the development of organic relationships (ones that grow naturally over time) or purposeful relationships (ones that you proactively create with a goal in mind) is being seriously eroded.
How do you know if your organization has a performance management system? Once a year, your boss is thrust into the dreaded “performance management cycle.” There he is required to complete numerous performance appraisals. Many managers rush to complete their appraisals en masse the Sunday night before the appraisals are due. While most of their ratings are influenced by the rankings and bell-curve pre-established by the organization. Upon the completion of an exhausting approval process, he finally schedules a meeting with you. Following the meeting, you rush back to your cubicle, call your significant other and exclaim, “I got a 3.5 on collaboration!”
History will not be kind to the performance appraisal. After decades of lackluster experiences, stale formats, and non-existent correlations between assessment and achievement, most savvy business leaders and modern management experts would tell you that the performance appraisal is a well-intended yet failed exercise in behavior modification.
Networking may be the most effective way for individuals looking to land a new job and for self-employed business owners to create revenue. However, networking is significantly less effective for employed business professionals seeking ways to grow in their current organization.
In my recent work with business leaders, three of them shared feedback with me that they had received from their boss as part of their annual performance appraisal process. Instead of a 30-60 minute assessment of their prior year’s performance, each of them instead heard something like “You’re doing a great job. Keep it up!” or “I loved your self-assessment. I totally agree.” And these weren’t 30-60 minute conversations. It was 5 minutes.
When you perform your job well, you are valuable to your organization. When you are focused primarily on creating individual value, you tend to be in a role that is more tactically-focused. And let’s face it, some roles in organizations need to be tactically focused. This focus is very valuable to the organization. Not every role has a clear line of sight to financial performance, nor should they.
Deep within the heart of your organization’s cubicle farm, you and your heads-down colleagues are working hard to stay employed. Our metric-based culture has created generations of individuals who believe that good performance alone ensures job security. They still haven’t figured out the dirty little secret behind value creation.
While it is inevitable that the dreaded performance appraisal will cease to exist in its current format, some form of performance measurement will continue to exist. One reason is that roles where value creation falls into a category called “individual value” will need a performance management system to measure how foundational activities impact the organization.
So what is it that will make you stand out to your boss or organization as a valuable employee? When I say that you must achieve more than just doing your job well, I am not suggesting that doing your job well is not important. Conversely, in today’s excruciating work environments, good performance is expected. Your organization is finding less time and spending less money to train you to be a good performer. In her recent Wall Street Journal article, Herminia Ibarra of INSEAD continued to reflect that “Businesses are putting managers in a tough spot. They’re forcing bosses to take on many new responsibilities – but they’re not training them to get those jobs done.”