How many see what appears as injustices at our workplaces? How many of us dream about a world where men and women obtain promotions purely on the basis of the quality and quantity of their work? Meritorious work counts, but only comprises one piece of a large complex puzzle that determines your success in your organisation.
Today we focus on how employees may obtain their own power. There exist four methods to increase your own non-substitutability at your place of work.
First, strive to differentiate yourself compared to other workers. If all other workers leave the office at 5:00pm, then you should leave at 6:00pm. If all other employees bring their lunches to work, then as an alternative you develop the habit of going out to lunch with the boss.
Instead of copying your coworkers as a way of fitting it, you should rather find ways of standing out for positive reasons. Work in a different style. Dress better. Socialise more effectively. Whatever method you choose for differentiating yourself from others, do it consistently and gain a reputation in people’s minds for that positive differentiating behaviour.
Second, attempt to control the tasks in your department. Show through your actions that you possess capabilities of getting the job done every time. Become the bridge between other departments, other supervisors, and other employees and the tasks that require completion.
When you stand out as the employee who bridges the gaps and controls tasks, even if you do not do the tasks yourself, you increase your non-substitutability in your boss’ mind.
Third, control labour where you work. Perhaps your organisation maintains a workers union, staff council, or staff welfare board. Use the opportunity to speak on behalf of other employees.
Work diplomatically in such a role so that management does not see you as a complaining representative, but rather someone reasonable that brokers deals and gets things done in motivating other employees.
Perform well controlling labour and expect management to soon actually promote you among their ranks into management itself.
Fourth, control knowledge. Start by understanding your company’s business, market, and clients. Then learn your clients’ businesses and markets. Look for gaps where others lack knowledge of an area. Perhaps you work for an NGO that deals with water provision to impoverished communities.
Then maybe seek to know how all other water projects in Asia have tried different techniques and how those methods might prove useful right here in Africa. Find an area where you become the expert so that the organisation would never make a decision in your area of expertise without your input.
Next, start to control knowledge sharing at your company. Researchers Lixin Jiang, Thomas Tripp, and Tahira Probst call such an individual a “lynchpin” and making yourself core-versus-peripheral in positions.
Even offer to manage content on an internal webpage for knowledge sharing. Reduce the chances that the organisation substitutes you with another employee by controlling the flow and sharing of institutional and sector-specific knowledge.
Now hopefully you master the art of non-substitutability where you work. Research shows if you increase your non-substitutability in your organisation and strengthen your position of power, not only will you enjoy job security, but also receive faster promotions until you yourself become the CEO.