Our new book Look Out Above! examines the critical soft skills required for professional success: Contribute, Write, Present, Pitch, Lead, and Advocate. We also explore the transformation process as you develop confidence and learn to trust your own judgment.
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It looks like you could use some help learning how to advocate more effectively for yourself in the workplace. Whether you are in a large, hierarchical company or a small, flatter one, it’s important to see yourself as those above you do. It’s prudent to do so even if you’re not advocating for something, but critical if you’re about to raise compensation or other matters. Most employees don’t honestly assess their contribution, but their managers do. Here’s how to look realistically at your contribution.
Consider your replaceability. In a business context, no one is indispensable, and everyone is replaceable. Some, though, are more readily replaceable than others. Do you bring something unique to the company that makes you difficult to replace? If your presence and contribution were removed, would the work of the firm falter, at least for a while? Do you have some special expertise? Can you sell, market, or service clients? Can you write code? Do you add to bottom-line revenues? Do you lead teams effectively? A vague assertion that “I have people skills” is unpersuasive. A grasp of your present reality, whatever it is, will influence the way you advocate. The more replaceable you are, the more lightly you must tread.
Consider your cost. One element of replaceability is cost. For those of you who work for others, someone has calculated your “all-in” cost – salary, bonus, benefits, and overhead load. At private companies, the people watching the payroll are the owners. Every dollar paid to you, or spent because of you, is a dollar that doesn’t go to them. Even a large and growing pie is still a pie. A slice for one cannot be a slice for another, and the owners know it. You may create value in ways that cannot be measured by dollar production, but at least be mindful that your presence carries a cost, and that someone above you knows what it is and is assessing if you’re worth it. What is your cost?
Consider the dollar value of your contribution. Do this to manage your own career, not to share with others. For the math to work at for-profit companies, some if not most employees are expected to produce revenue significantly greater than their cost. If everyone just covered their cost, there would be no profit, and thus no incentive for the owner to keep the enterprise going. Revenue producers are needed to feed the owner and big dogs at the top, and to cover the cost of those in support positions.
Can you estimate the dollar value of your contribution? If so, how does that amount compare to your cost? If you’re a producer, that dollar value could be solely attributable to you or, if you’re a leader, to the value created by you and your team. If you’re in a staff role that doesn’t produce revenue, it’s a little harder. Those in staff jobs indirectly make revenue generation possible by supporting line jobs that directly generate revenue, but keep in mind your reality. Since you’re not producing revenue, someone else must produce revenue to cover their cost and your cost, as well as profit. This makes you more vulnerable, which is no reason not to do work you love, but which makes it even more imperative that your contribution be recognized, and that others appreciate your value to the organization.
To learn the details of how to advocate more effectively for yourself, pick up your copy of Look Out Above! and skip straight to Chapter Six. And while you have the book, check out the other chapters, too. We promise they’re worth your while.