The best is no longer enough if you want to rise through the ranks.
For much of my career, I was led to believe that putting your best foot forward was the only way to succeed. Join the best companies in my industry. Schmooze with the best people in town. Embrace the best practices in my field. Perform like the best in the business. In return, I expected opportunities to learn, hone my expertise, earn well and steadily climb the corporate ladder.
Today, I am not so sure that the best matters. Perhaps, I need to let go of being the best, for myself or my expectations of others. The more I look at South African organisations, the less convinced I become that the best is enough to succeed. In some organisations, one can become insanely successful by accepting a different deal.
What do they offer?
Let me share with you what these employers offer that sets them far above their best competitors.
Don’t expect to find these employers in the official best ranking lists. Rather, go through the breaking stories each week and you are likely to come across them. Their employer brand is regularly associated with CEO departures, management reshuffles and allegations of underhanded activity. Their brand is regularly plunged into one crisis after another. Surprisingly, talent is still lining up for their vacancies.
Your future boss
During the interview, your future boss will grill you about values and ethics. Performance is an afterthought. Unfortunately, years of conditioning about being your best, may disqualify you for the position. If you struggle to compromise your values or ethics, your future boss will quietly eliminate you from the shortlist. It was never about appointing the best person for the position. What were you thinking?
Unlike their counterparts, these employers truly believe that remuneration is all art and no science. The science of remuneration is a mere inconvenience in their books. They rather play with a paintbrush in the boardroom. You will be shocked to discover that the CE, executives and selected staff are generously remunerated above the market. Don’t bother about performance. As long as you stay away from doing your best, you won’t limit your career or future package increases.
Unlimited meetings plan
You are automatically enrolled on the unlimited meetings plan. You are welcome to attend unlimited, pointless meetings for the duration of your employment. Forget about holding effective meetings. Meetings are used to frustrate others that want to perform at their best. Meetings about meetings reinforce it.
Unfortunately, HR doesn’t offer much by way of employee wellness. With over 90% of the staff operating at less than their best, you will stick out like a sore thumb. If you are battling to overcome your beliefs about being the best, HR will arrange a counselling session. You definitely need help to fit into the culture.
So what do they expect?
The truth is that nobody truly cares about performance. The organisation continues to succeed in spite of its colossal blunders. Shareholders or taxpayers continue to bail them out, year after year, of operating losses. Executives go through the motions of performance management without actually managing performance. Unless you fall on the wrong side of management, you will be rewarded for non-performance. It won’t take you long to learn that the trick is to delegate everything to the shadow workforce (permanent consultants and service providers). Just don’t delude yourself that you are making a real difference to the business.
To keep your career steady, you must be willing to talk above the table and pass things underneath it. Let the tender that they awarded to a “distant” relative of the CFO sail through the committee. Authorise transactions without asking questions. You don’t want to make others feel nervous about your best intentions. Ignore executives paying themselves handsome bonuses. (You will also get a bonus, don’t be selfish.) Occasionally, you will be called into closed door meetings. By helping others to slowly cover their tracks, you will have a fast track to the C-Suite. In the unlikely event that you develop a conscience, keep it to yourself. Trying to do the best thing, will be the worst thing for your future at the company. Remember what happened to –
Until next month, are you putting your best foot forward?
Yusuf Mahomedy (CA(SA) is the founder of Worksucks, www.worksucks.co.za, and is a reward consultant.
This article appeared in the November 2015 issue of HR Future magazine.