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An Employee's Value: Real vs. Perceived

In my experience, employees will try any number of things to prove their value to an employer or supervisor. But I’ve found that there are typically two kinds of value: real and perceived. I recently conducted a survey of business leaders that revealed that non-value-added tactics are being used by workers twice as frequently as those that add money to the bottom line. Below is a list of some of the non-value-added tactics employees utilize to keep their jobs or get promotions. Each tactic is followed by the perspective of business owners from the study.

Tactic 1. Avoid making waves: Fit in, live with problems, and avoid speaking up. If there truly is a problem, the only permanent and productive response is to meet it head-on. It may be the more difficult path, but it will demonstrate an employee’s value and help create a more positive work environment.

Tactic 2. Using flattery or favors to ingratiate themselves with the bosses. While some supervisors may enjoy flattery, they can still see through it: They’re more inclined to respect the straight-shooter over the bootlicker.

Tactic 3. Arriving at work before the boss; leaving work after the boss. Productivity speaks louder than long hours. If an employee can be productive during normal business hours, the effort will be recognized. Working longer hours often brings with it an expectation of greater productivity and if that’s not seen, questions about work ethic typically result.

Tactic 4. Generally appearing to be busy doing things. Financial results will always make a better impression than checking off a long to-do list. A small number of bottom line improvements will beat a longer list of fake work every time.

Tactic 5. Making special attempts to be "visible" and claiming credit for any good outcome possible. Wrongly taking credit for things will do far more harm with fellow employees and supervisors than giving credit where it is due.

I’ve found that when employees use these and other non-value-added tactics, they are typically doing nothing more than attempting to make a good impression. They may increase their perceived value with the company, but that doesn’t increase profits. By rewarding real value and discouraging perceived value, a business can focus on providing higher quality for customers and a better work environment for employees…not to mention more profit for itself.Larry Myler


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Provo, Utah

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