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Why over relying on your manager to progress your career can actually lead to you stalling

Meeting a friend for drinks a few weeks ago we got into a discussion of career progression and she told me the story of her latest review. Her manager had mentioned that a peer always gets in early and stays late and that if she too wanted to progress within the team she probably need to make a bit more of an 'effort'. There was no discussion of her actual performance, only the hours she worked, in the definition of effort by her manager.

She had come out the meeting confused and angry thinking she had no alternative but to leave the company in order to progress her career. Thinking about the situation two issues were obvious to me; Firstly, she has a very poor manager who thinks presentism equals performance, and secondly that she thought that her manager was in control of her future career. So let's look at each point in a bit more detail.

In the Ideal Worker model of working presentism is an important tool to evaluate performance but increasingly there is evidence that the opposite is true. One study has found that productivity during a 60 hour week could be less than two thirds of that experienced during a 40 hour week. This is just one of many academic studies which shows that beyond a tipping point, usually around 40 hours, our productivity exponentially declines.

We need managers who will focus on the final product and not the number of hours worked. Managers who will accept flexibility within reason is the new norm to allow people to produce their best work. Rather than focusing on time as a value of 'effort' the aim should be to evaluate on clear quantifiable objectives. This allows for more grown up conversations based output and client satisfaction and reduces any presentism bias.

There is no guarantee of the type of manager you will get at each stage of your career so learning to 'Manager Craft' is a vital skill to have in your career toolkit to help counter the more unhelpful manager types. 'Manager Crafting' follows similar rules to job-crafting including seek out resources, seek out challenges and optimize your time but this time the focus is on your discretionary effort in relation to your manager. It is not simply a case of accepting the situation but rather finding a way to make the best of the situation using these three options. To find out more about Manager Crafting click here.

My friend is in control of her future career not her manager

My friend has an Ideal Worker manager who has a dated and damaging view of effort. Relying on a manager driven by the Ideal Worker model is not going to help my friend get her next promotion, she will never meet that model of working and neither should she want to. At the same time my friend was under an equally dated view that her manager alone is responsible for her future in her organisation. She failed to realize that colleagues have a considerable role in their own career progression, though obviously having a supportive and enlightened manager makes everything easier.

At the end of the conversation I suggested she move away from inaction and moaning to taking charge of her career. We talked about her focusing on creating her work values to provide her with a solid basis for determining her work vision. Once she is clear on her work vision her next step is to build up her network to reduce her reliance on her manager as her sole internal advocate of her future career progression. By using her discretionary effort to be clear on where she wants to be and widen her visibility within the organisation she is using her time wisely and with the greatest impact. At the same time we discussed the idea of using Manager Crafting to help improve her relationship with her manager to allow her to engage is a more grown up conversation around performance that is not based on presentism. Whether or not this is successful only time will tell but at least my friend went away with a clearer view of how she could best use her discretionary effort at work, rather than simply complaining about the situation.

If you enjoyed this post please check out my blog here, including post focused on how to communicate your value and how to undertake a career pivot by job crafting.

All opinions are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.


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