Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of theworkplacetherapist.com – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.
In most cases, the warning signs that you are losing your rock star status at work are the same whether you are an up-and-coming high performer or a senior leader who has been “on top of the charts” for decades. Here are some of the more common that apply regardless of your role:
- No more applause – You used to get frequent kudos from your boss, but now – nothing. Nada. Just silence. Be very concerned with prolonged periods of silence. In the best cases, the boss may just be overwhelmed and can’t think of anything other than his or her own workload. However, in the worst cases it can be much worse. It could mean her or she is intentionally distancing him or herself from you in preparation for laying you off. This is a common self-protective practice with any boss prior to a lay-off in order to make the conversation less painful for him or her… but not necessarily lest painful for you.
- No more gigs – You begin to notice that you are not getting asked to take on the big projects like you once were. At first, you are relieved because you were getting burnt out with the pace you were keeping at work (touring is tough, huh?). But, be wary. If being overlooked for projects becomes a trend, you could be in trouble – regardless of the reason you are given by your boss. Worse yet, if you begin to have work taken away and eventually find yourself with less work than your co-workers, you are losing relevance. Losing relevance means losing a job. Soon you’ll be playing in dive bars if you don’t watch out. Keep pace with everyone else’s workloads at a minimum.
- You are no longer cool – There was a time when the organization couldn’t get enough of you and people like you. Be careful. In business, just like in music, there are trends, fashions and tastes that come in and out of favor. For example, there was a time in the mid-to-late 1990’s that if you had any knowledge of a computer and networking, you could name your price. Companies were throwing money and perks (even cars in some cases) to lure folks to their emerging I.T. departments. Today, the supply meets the demand. Graduates with degrees in information systems and computer engineering are running the show. Salaries are stable and being up to speed on the latest technology is no longer a differentiator – it is a requirement. Are you up to speed on the latest in your industry? Is your role and function still “cool?” Or are you suffering the fate of big hair bands of the ‘80’s? You may need to change your image before you are thrown out with last year’s fashions. Relevance is more important today than ever.
But there are some warning signs for the senior leader that are slightly different. A good friend of mine, Randy Hain, Managing Partner of Bell Oaks Executive Search and I came up with following list specifically related to “senior leader rock stars”:
- You are no longer being included in strategy decisions – Have you noticed that you have much more time on your hands? That you are no longer “required” to be present at some of the strategy meetings that you once dreaded? Be careful. While you think this means they value your time, this may really mean that they no longer value your opinion.
- Head hunters aren’t calling – The “real” rock stars are known inside and outside of their industry and they are wooed regularly. Even in this economy, there are plenty of jobs available to the rock star. So, when was the last time your phone rang?
- You are not included in informal social gatherings – Do members of the senior leadership team invite you over to their homes? Do you and your spouse go out with other team members and their spouses? Do your peers make an effort to get to know you? If not, you need to ask yourself “why not?”
- No one listens anymore – I recently attended a company-wide social event. The senior leader stood up to speak to kick off festivities and set the tone for the evening. The members of the organization looked up for a moment, saw who was speaking and then continued their conversations with each other. Are you getting ignored when you speak?
Any of these warning signs could mean danger so be on the lookout. On the flip side, what does it look like when you are on the rise in your organization? The opposite of all the warning signs above: you are regularly given kudos by your boss, you are given big problems to tackle in recognition of your superstar status and you have a unique skill set that is coveted by others inside and outside of your organization. If all of those positive aspects describe work for you today, your job is simple. Work your tail off to stay there. Being a rock star over time is no easy task. It involves hard work and constant vigilance for the warning signs of eventual decline, a responsibility that is solely yours. Don’t expect your manager to tell you, because they likely won’t. Focus on keeping your fans happy, keeping yourself relevant and constantly monitoring your status in the organization and there is no reason you can’t stay “on top of the charts” for decades.