Corporate Truth no. 2: #ThereIsNoFair

“Deserving” something, in a corporate environment, is rarely a function of your work.
                                                                                                    -from Office of Cards

One of the things I struggle the most accepting is this simple truth: Fairness, in a corporate environment, and maybe in life, does not exist. And you should plan your life accordingly.

Well, maybe it does exist, but you should not count on it. If it exists, then good, you have a backup plan you did not need! But if it does not, then your backup plan will become plan A and so it better be a good one.

It is in the human nature to think in quid pro quo, or causal, terms. “If I do this, then that will happen”. In the context of a job, usually, ambitious and talented people think (especially at the beginning of their careers) that “if I work hard, then I will get promoted”. Or even better “if my results are better than the results of my peers, I will advance faster than them”. I surely was one thinking that. And surely I left my good share of jobs when I was “unfairly” not promoted.

See, the problem is the inherent vice in the above statements, in that they are statements YOU make based on what YOU see and what YOU think. Are you being objective? Maybe. Are you seeing your performance, and that of your peers, in the same way as your boss is? Maybe. Are you clear on what the process that determines the promotion is? Maybe. Are you clear on the things that the company values above all to consider someone for promotion or career advancement? Maybe. See how many maybes? Let’s expand on each one.

1- Objectivity. It’s clear that we have a bias on the way we see our work. Ambitious people tend to see themselves better than they actually are, while humble people might see themselves worse. This has an impact on our attitude towards others, and on the way we assess our work in relation to that of others.

2- Point of view. If you see the world in a certain way, if you think your contribution was exceptional, are you sure that 1) your boss sees it the same way and 2) that your contribution was in line with what they were expecting from you? I was recently in a calibration session and I was told a story, happened a few months ago, where an employee was rating himself 1 (in a scale where 1 means significantly exceeds expectations and 5 means performance issue) and his calibrating committed (so, not just one person, but at least 5 senior people) rated him 4. This was a shock, how could it happen? The reason for this discrepancy was that his performance was indeed great, but he had a serious attitude problem, he was rude to people and everyone complained about him. And, guess what, this element, for that company, was so critical that there’s no tolerance for it and they were even debating if he should have gotten a 5. This has happened because this employee did not take time to understand what mattered in order to get a good feedback. Equally, his managers probably did not address the issue soon enough so the point came out during the performance conversation, which is never good. I am not talking about the managerial aspect here, but if you are an employee and have any kind of expectations of rewards, make sure you are clear with your boss on what you need to do to get them. #BePrepared

3- Process. Another angle on the point above is this: you surely need to have clarity on what you need to do to get promoted, but you also need to be aware that it is not a race of you vs the goal. As I describe in Office of Cards, in large organisations usually being promoted means more than just performance, it means that the promotion/calibration committee must think you are the one that deserves to take one of the slots available for promotion (because there’s a finite, usually small, number of those to use). So you need to know where you stand vs the rest of the team, and again, it’s not in absolute terms but it is where each person stands vs the expectations the company has from them. Remember this: it is much easier to talk about expectations (and them being wrong, unfair, uneven…) at the beginning of a performance cycle, than justify why you did not meet them at the end of it. Ideally, you should fight like a lion when your boss gives you your goals, to make sure they are fair and that you have all you need to achieve them, once that deal is sealed, you should disappear, start GRINDING and then show up again when you smashed all your targets. No whining, no complaints, just exceptional results. This is what bosses love 🙂

4- Values. As I mentioned in point 2, every company has a set of values you must adhere to in order for your performance to be even considered. In many companies being a good team player is not optional, if you are not good at that they don’t even look at your performance and just give you a straight bad score (with all the consequences of it). Make sure you spend time understanding the culture of the company, if you are in doubt ask your boss or someone who has been around long enough to have some anecdotes to share #GetHelp.

As you can see, the game is a long one and delivering exceptional results is not the only thing that matters. You need to develop situational awareness, know the people, know the processes, focus on hitting all bases. Remember, #ItsAGameOfThrones, getting rewarded in a corporate environment is a complex matter and outcomes are very unpredictable if you do not #PlayTheLongGame.

By the way, the same applies to life. When you are having an argument, this about this 4-points list and try to objectively assess the situation:

1- Are you looking at the situation (what you did, what others did) objectively?

2- Are you sure the other party involved in your argument has the same elements you have to assess the situation? Maybe they have more, or maybe less, or maybe just different elements;

3- Are you clear on what their decision making process is? Sometimes people with the same information make very different decisions simply because they see the world in different ways;

4- Aside from the specific elements of this argument, are you clear on what the operating principles of the other person are? What are their fundamental beliefs that guide most of their decisions?

If you nail all 4 of these points, you will likely experience a significant drop in the number of arguments you have every day. #TryThisAtHome 🙂

I hope this post will help you see elements that maybe you were not considering before.
The importance of working hard and being committed to delivering great results is not in question, but it’s not all. It’s like a great dish: the main ingredient has the be of prime quality, but to get great results you need spices, sauces, sides, plating well…

As always, thanks for reading and please, share your thoughts and comments!!