The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Too good to be rewarded

If you talk to any successful entrepreneur, he will tell you that one of the ingredients of his achievements is hard work. But there are situations where hard work is counterproductive. The gadflies and drones of the company actually overtake you.

There are several reasons why this happens. There are people who work hard ó much harder than their colleagues ó because deep down they suffer from an inferiority complex. Often, they donít realise it. They sacrifice family life to devote themselves to the corporate cause. You will find a lot of them in foreign banks. They run from meeting to meeting: from power breakfast to deal-making dinner.

Americans are particularly good at creating work for each other. The British have learnt to enjoy themselves behind the facade of hard work. Remember the five investment bankers from Barclays Capital who totted up a bill of £44,000 on one meal. (Thatís what the wine cost; the £400 food bill was waived by the astounded restaurant owner.) Incidentally, Barclays was at that time cutting 1,800 jobs.

Away from the executive suites, why are people penalised for working too hard' The inferiority complex encourages some people to make themselves irreplaceable. An executive secretary with a top CEO says that she is the right hand person of her boss. So much so, each time he changed jobs, she moved with him. The money is not an issue; within limitations, she has been taken care of. But she recollects that she joined the job in the secretarial pool along a certain Ramona. The latter didnít try to reach the big league by latching her wagon to a smart young executive. She was relatively lazy and was sent for training courses. Today, Ramona is sales manager in a rival concern and could even make CEO some day.

Itís not just secretaries who get wedded to their bosses. Some individuals get wedded to their jobs. They make themselves so valuable that they are impossible to move out or replace. If you are ever in such a position, you can bid goodbye to your chances of promotion. The other reason, of course, is that because of your insecurity, you take good care not to groom a successor. Remember the first IT types in companies when computerisation was a new, new thing. They made everything seem so esoteric. One of the few good things Bill Gates has done is reduce them to jargon-mouthing non-essentials.

Hard work also implies a lot of devotion to the immediate job content. The end result is that you donít have the time to see what others are doing. If you want to rise to the top, you have to be a generalist. This is why industry puts a greater premium on MBAs than engineers.

But engineers and MBAs alike can fall into the hard work trap. And they have some evidence to prove that they are doing the right thing. According to a study by the Gothenburg University in Sweden, people who work hard tend to be happier. But the researchers add that the important point is to have a goal. Unfortunately for some, the work itself becomes an all-consuming goal.

Other researchers have pointed out that working yourself into a dead end happens more to women than to men. Some of the reasons are: overcompensation because of the need to handle multiple priorities; a greater sense of loyalty to the organisation and the individual; and a more responsible attitude to life. It may also be that job opportunities for women are limited even today. However, you wonít find HR people talking about this, as itís politically incorrect.

The ultimate result of unstinted hard work is that you get taken for granted. The worker who expects to get rewarded for devotion ends up as the dogsbody around the office.

Pushing for promotion

• Master your current job.

• Volunteer to take on (valuable) extra tasks.

• Make your boss look good.

• Stay in close contact with the HR department.

• Maintain positive relationships with the staff.

• Let your leadership skills shine.

• Groom a successor.

• Get a mentor.

• Take additional training.

• Look presentable at all times.

• Perfect your elevator pitch.

• Watch your timing.


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