This article was posted in the Economic Times.. a fuller version of course exists.



To rise in the company all I have to do is do my job well. The boss will surely notice me and reward my diligence.

Nope. Not just for that.

And this is what your parent’s generation is unlikely to tell you. (Unless you are one of the lucky few)

Think of it as Maslow’s hierarchy of deliverables.

Step One

At the bottom of the pyramid lies the Hygiene factor. This is the set of tasks that are essential and form the core of the job. The expectation here is that you do what is asked of you. The tasks are basic and mechanical. The employee is expected to work for speed and accuracy where the parameters of the task are already fixed. This is the part of the job that is likely to be mechanised or robotised in the interest of greater economy or accuracy. Examples of these include jobs of a typist or a fax operator. While both those tasks are still  part of the daily routine of most businesses, it employs fewer people each year solely for these. Every role, all the way up the hierarchy has parts that are similar. While essential, it may be wise to remember that there are no special commendations to be achieved here. Of course, mistakes in these are terribly embarrassing. Often called the ‘executive’ level (now) because what you do is execute instructions.

The Second Step

Right above that comes the layer with tasks that are your ‘responsibility’. This is the stuff that is within your domain but nobody tells you how to do them. The ‘what’ may be clear, though often made specific in annual goal setting. The ‘how’ is not always specified, though there might be a tradition of doing things a certain way. Here, both the task and its accountability come from above. Often called the managerial level, as you are expected to manage resources to get results.

Now for the bits they don’t tell you about:

The Third Step

The layer of the unasked. There is always a lot of stuff that needs doing in an organisation or business, but is not part of your job description. It is also not part of any other person’s job description (no point stepping on other people’s toes, it will only mess things up). Sometimes it is as simple as organising the annual office party. Sometimes it is volunteering to do a little project that does not really help your P&L but needs to be done. Sometimes it is just being a good team leader and a fantastic team player. Why should you do it? To get noticed, to differentiate yourself and rise above.

The Fourth Layer

If the previous one was difficult to see – let us call it translucent, the next one is even less visible. In old hindi movies there often was a sequence where lots of people were doing hard work. Say building a road or clearing a field. And then there would be one person, say the hero or heroine who would do a little bit of work, but their main job would be singing. Not that this is a lesson from Bollywood, but some of you would have observed these singers in your offices too. The guy who sends out the first congratulatory email to all.. or the person who leads the pace in a tough project. This – again – not a part of the core job. (Also very annoying when it comes from someone who has not done much work – if you are a pace setter, make sure the work layers are solid!). The guy who sings the songs, who keeps up the morale and holds the team together is doing the team a service! Well, it does not literally need you to sing songs, a few praises may not be amiss. Celebrate the successes too. Do it with a will, with honest intent (so easy to spot a fraud). To coin a cliche – till you believe in the success of a team, the team cannot believe in your success. Somebody’s got to put in the effort of making work fun.

Layer Five

And while the next layer is not the top, it is the last we speak of – even as it is invisible. If you want to rise above your level, you have to demonstrate exactly that. Do more than is expected. Always remembering of course to ensure you are helping  your team and your boss – not trampling all over their space and work. India is more openly hierarchical than many places – and it will not do much good to rock the boat you want to rule.

If you are the CEO, or close to being one – you probably know these things. (That is how you got here) The guys you want to groom to make you successful may not have realised this – send it to them. Sounds like a lot of hard work? It is.


Ask the person who sent you this link.



This was posted in the Economic Times Blog The Corner Office http://blogs.economictimes.indiatimes.com/CornerOffice/entry/the-layered-ladder on February 05, 2013

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