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Famous Cop-Outs In the Talent Game: "My Boss Won't Let Me"...

Let's talk about why you don't have more upside at work.  Whether you know it or not, you're playing it safe.  You're either waiting for permission to do something innovative or rationalizing that your plans to be innovative would never be approved.

And it's lame.  For you and your company. And your family.Linchpin.JPG

"It's just too risky for this company", you say. "It wouldn't be supported".

Who cares whether it would be supported or not? Oh yeah, I forgot. YOU'RE the one who cares, because you're comfortable playing it safe.  Status quo, maybe you complain/whine/bitch about how things are and if you were only appreciated, you could make a difference. 

Lame. The people you complain/whine/bitch with? They don't want you to do more. They want to packed in with you from a performance standpoint, with everyone average. Like a union, where everyone's the same unless you have more tenure.

The problem with that is it's all rationalization so you don't have to put yourself out there and do something different.  I was reminded of this humanity play as I read Linchpin by Seth Godin.  Check out Seth's quote from this volume on how to make yourself indispensable:

"My boss won't let me" - Of course she won't. Why would she? You're saying, "I want to do some crazy thing, and if it doesn't work, I want you to take all the blame.  Of course, if it does work, I'll get the credit. Okay?".  No, not okay. Nothing in this book argues that you need the perfect boss to become indispensable.  I'm saying that if you become indispensable, you'll discover that you get a better boss."

That's a brilliant piece of writing.  The problem isn't the boss, it's you.  I'd go a step further and say that conversation with the boss never happens.  95% of the time, you make that rationalization before you talk to the boss, when the reality is that most of the stuff you're thinking about wouldn't cause a problem.  You want to experiment?  Most companies are fine with that as long as the regular work gets done.

So stop rationalizing and whining.  The next time you find yourself in whine/bitch mode, do the American economy, your family and you a favor and stop - and start a project on your own time that will make a difference if you deliver.  Then deliver it.

If you're company doesn't appreciate that, I know a couple that do. 


Drew Michaels

You make some good points here but I'd say this also highlights a breakdown of corporate culture where employees are only expected to do the thing listed on their job description. It's an old way of thinking from the Baby Boomer generation where you worked 9-to-5 at the same place for 30 years and finally got to enjoy life once retired.

I for one hope that culture is changing. I look at leaders like Google who give all their employees the famed 20% time. That is, they are given 20% of their hours to work on whatever they want. I for one applaud Google. They have completely removed that rationalization process you discuss in the interest of employee innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship.

Rusty Brand

Wow! KD, great post! Couldn't agree more. There are always excuses on why you shouldn't do something on why "they would never go for it". Its time to shut up and do it.


I agree somewhat, but it depends greatly on your corporate culture. Innovation and forward thinking are very rewarded at some companies, but some are so risk-adverse (not in the HR sense, but in the innovative sense) that it's not just "risky" to try to make waves, it's just plain dumb. Know your audience. Culture is every bit as important as competency.

But the upside is this - some companies ALWAYS invite innovators, and will find a place for you. If you want to shake things up and you can't in your current position, there is always a place that will welcome you if you look for it.


Great post. Thanks for inspiring me a bit today. When running a company, we should try to create a culture that supports and rewards appropriate risk taking and innovation. But if we're not in one of those, or we're not the ones running it, we should stop whining and be more proactive.

Mike Cook

Kris, good stuff as usual.

How about a corresponding piece in managers encouraging indispensability?

Alice Ma

Good sharing. I fully understand the turmoil when one with ideas being trapped in the "Stay-Put-Till-I-Tell-You-What-To-Do" management culture. So I'm now in the process of exploring other opportunities that allow me to "experiment" my work ideas.

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