Are you a Place Holder or a Outcome Guarantor?

Yesterday a client called to have a career assessment and to update their resume. Although successful and a recognized achiever, she is now career restless.

She believes that her company is now playing it safe and utilizing her as a guarantor of the vast sales figures she delivers. Her work is repetitive, redundant, predictable, and dull. She feels overlooked and undervalued. How can this be?

A year ago, she was on the fast track with her third promotion in just five years! And it is rare and challenging that a client seeks to change companies because they would like to face a challenge or possible failure, beat it, and grow, which takes confidence and bravery! YOU GO, GIRL!

After our call, I wondered whether she was now genuinely performing at a mediocre level as her current projects appeared. Then this article on the “The Gravitational Pull of Mediocrity,” published by Oliver Burkeman some six years ago, jogged into my mind.

Burkman said: “Being a second-rate performer is not simply the curse of being an over-promoted underachiever – it is the default state of the universe.” So it seems that if you do your job well, you may be rewarded with promotions until you reach the position where you become a guarantor of the necessary outcome.

And you do not need to be undervalued or bad at your job for this to occur. At many organizations, terrible ideas and solutions often crowd out good ones if they guarantee expected outcomes.

In many company cultures, “just stay on course” is enough. So please be careful about becoming a guarantor of an expected and needed outcome. The result may be to become a placeholder which is where you remain.

The tech investor Ben Horowitz once said: “As soon as someone on a given rung at a company gets as good as the worst person the next rung up, they may expect a promotion.” Consequently, the achievement guarantors and some of its talent will become restless.

To forestall that reality, companies need to shift the mediocre-performing employees they have created into positions to pursue new challenges, force them to keep growing or push them out.

Some professionals settle into an achievement plateau because the mediocrity acceptance level at their job is tolerable. So as long as their superiors are satisfied with them in their role and they deliver the desired results, they are rewarded until they are not!

Does this describe where you are in your career? Have you plateaued? Are you beginning to feel irrelevant?

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