9 Realities of Modern Workplace

While talking to a project manager in a services company recently, I was reminded of how little people (even those with 8-10 years of experience) understand modern workplace. We were talking about promotions and bonuses and she was lamenting the fact that promotions very rarely happen in the mid-year review. When I asked her why that might be (it is the case in most companies – it is an exception to get promotion in a mid-year review), she offered a few: it gives more time to people to prove themselves in case they missed out in the last review, it is too early, etc. but nothing convincing, even to herself. I left it as homework for her to figure this out but it left me thinking.

If someone is serious about building a career, they need to understand modern workplaces. While there are lots of management books about workplace and organization behavior, very few people bother to read them, preferring instead to somehow manage their way through the workplace. This puts them at a serious disadvantage. Many times, people think their current workplace is bad because these factors exist and think that their next workplace will be much better. The sad reality is that most workplaces are similar in these aspects and their next workplace is unlikely to be any better than current one. From career management perspective, it is much better to stay and try to figure out how to excel in the presence of these realities rather than trying to run away from them.

Here are 9 realities of modern workplace that everyone would do well to keep in mind and plan to tackle.

  • Organization doesn’t care about you, it only cares about the value you create
  • Organization deliberately sets up goals for people and departments that conflict with each other
  • Most performance review systems are broken and useless
  • Promotions and bonuses are determined more by available budget and market conditions, less by your capabilities or your performance
  • There is always a stack ranking and a bell curve of performance rating, even in companies that claim they don’t have these
  • The new hire can replace you any day if your only strength is technology
  • Organizations are full of leaders and managers who are incompetent and painful
  • There are lots of star performers who are jerks, or vice-versa
  • What leaders say can be very different than what they mean

Here are 7 personal rules that career-savvy engineers try to live by and work around these organization realities:

  1. I don’t work for my manager, I work for my organization
  2. I don’t listen to leaders, I only observe them
  3. I make things happen, I don’t wait for them
  4. Every obstacle is an opportunity to learn something new
  5. I always explore opportunities to learn new things that are aligned to my goals
  6. I measure my own career growth, I don’t rely on performance management systems
  7. I always produce the best I can produce, independent of how the organization makes me feel

Later posts will delve deeper into some of these realities and rules. I am very interested in listening to what your experience has been with realities of modern workplaces, and how you have dealt with them. Please post your comments.

PS: So what is the answer to the question I posed to the PM at the beginning of this post? Well, it is simple: company’s annual budget incorporates the money needed for salary hikes and bonuses. If companies start giving regular hikes and bonuses during mid-year, financial planning will become quite complicated because salary usually constitutes a significant portion of the cost of a technology company. So to keep things simple, all such changes to money outlay is planned to be done once a year and money is allocated during budget exercise.

PPS: Here are the links to the posts for each of the realities:

  1. Organization doesn’t care about you, it only cares about the value you create
  2. Organization deliberately sets up goals for people and departments that conflict with each other
  3. Most performance review systems are broken and useless
  4. Promotions and bonuses are determined more by available budget and market conditions, less by your capabilities or your performance
  5. There is always a stack ranking and a bell curve of performance rating, even in companies that claim they don’t have these
  6. The new hire can replace you any day if your only strength is technology
  7. Organizations are full of leaders and managers who are incompetent and painful
  8. There are lots of star performers who are jerks, or vice-versa
  9. What leaders say can be very different than what they mean

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

9 Replies to “9 Realities of Modern Workplace”

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