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Most offices feature at least one worker who eschews the politics of workplace praise, quietly garnering satisfaction through diligent work rather than boisterous self-aggrandizement. These folks may not be particularly popular or outgoing, but the value of their work wholly makes up for their reluctance to enter the office’s social forum. Author David Zweig calls these types of workers “invisibles,” a term he coined in his book Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion.
What’s the Big Idea?
Tammy Tierney of the Jacksonville Business Journal asked Zweig why he established the term and authored his book:
“In certain organizations, [invisibles are] recognized and valued — the people in the book are incredibly successful — but there’s a lot of room for businesses and organizations to better their work environments.”
Invisibles possess vital skills and an unremitting work ethic but are often underrated or underutilized by their employers. If you have an invisible working under you, Zweig offers the following tips (with help from Tierney) for helping them succeed:
1. Identify who they are. They’re probably not the people you see the most.
2. Open up new lines of communication where invisibles won’t be drowned out by their more visible peers.
3. Don’t force invisibles to hone their personal brand if they prefer to work in relative anonymity.
4. Find meaningful, personalized ways to reward good work.
5. Promote them, or at least trust them with important work. Invisibles thrive when allowed to take on more responsibility.
Take a look at Tierney’s article (linked again below) and ruminate on who the invisibles are in your life (I can think of a few already). Remember that just because most workers don’t fall into this category doesn’t mean they’re necessarily less valuable. Perhaps taking time to focus on Zweig’s label will help you identify other underrated workplace subcultures.
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