Is it enough just to show up to work every day to be valued?
How do you feel about people who drive all their action from their job description?
When I consider the array of skills people bring to teams, it seems to me that the basic technical and professional skills of “the job” don’t make a huge difference to the team.
In poker, the “ante” is the price you pay just to play the game. That’s like meeting the basic requirements of your job, and by itself doesn’t make you any more valuable to a team than someone else.
Now, that is not the kind of team member I actively look for, or who gets paid very well, though I accept that people who haven’t thought about being more valuable might be confused to be called “replaceable”.
The economic collapse in 2008 made many people think seriously, perhaps for the first time, about what made them “valuable enough” to join a team. The thing is, just showing up for work and doing your job makes you replaceable on a team and not as valuable as you might think you are.
A common interpretation of “team player”
Another term used from time to time is “team player”. One recent blog commenter said that in his experience the phrase “team player” is often used as…
simply management jargon for someone who will not challenge assumptions, will not challenge a process that produces demonstrably bad outcomes, will not object to micro-management, will silently lay down on the railroad tracks when the train is coming – S.K.
My response to him was that I have seen that use of the term as well… and while they might fit in and not really get noticed, they may be valued (but are not typically highly-valued) members of my teams.
Standard practices exist to drop the cost of communicating and coordinating action. It’s important to have them and it’s important to follow them where consistency and recurrent actions make sense… in some environments, that could be most of the time.
One role of operations management is to produce those standard practices, to make things consistent and recurrent, and to drop our costs for doing the same things over and again. Where an organization has well-refined processes and produces enterprise value without innovation, it makes sense that team members need to just follow the process all the time.
Such team members might be like automatons, human machines, whose labor as a machine directly translates into production. I make that comparison not as a moral judgement but simply a practical matter when labor is what is needed.
In such cases the organization can set up extensive training programs for new employees that produce new automatons… and again most team members are replaceable and not as highly valued as they might feel entitled.
Does everybody want to be valued?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to suggest that you need to be valued highly. I don’t imply that there is anything wrong with following processes, showing up to work on time or having the requisite technical and professional skills to be on the team. We are all in different places in our lives and our careers, and we may want different things for them.
By saying you may not be as highly valued, I am not saying you will not be valued. In my earlier post, “Does your IT salary depend on what makes you different?” I related personal income to the value you produce in your career. We value team members in general, but we value more highly the people who bring more positive skills or abilities that exceed what other team members bring.
So this writing is for those who are interested in being more valuable. The economics principle of marginal utility suggests that once we get past all the common interpretations of “team players” and job descriptions, it is those characteristics of greater help, greater value and higher production that are most highly valued to your team.