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Why your job tenure means nothing to your manager or HR

Job Tenure
job tenure

Madonna reinvents herself, she doesn’t rely on job tenure

Job tenure in corporate America is dead

There is always someone who believes that because they have been working in a department or for a company for a long time, that they are bulletproof. This mentality, which is more at a subconscious level than a conscious level, usually results in an employee who feels that they can sit back and coast. These tenured employees don’t just feel like they sit back and relax, they feel it is a privilege owed to them for their years of service. In reality TV parlance, they feel they hold “corporate immunity”. I hate to break it to you but your job tenure doesn’t mean jack shit to me. Tenure doesn’t mean anything unless you are a Tenured Professor or belong to a union.  (But that is a completely separate post) I don’t care if you have 5, 10, or 20 years of tenure with a company.  At the end of the day, your job tenure means nothing to me and probably doesn’t mean much to your manager.  In today’s new economy, job tenure is extinct.  “Reinventing yourself” is the new black. 

I have posted a couple of related topics in the past. 

Why your company doesn’t hire internal applicants

Why I don’t believe in the cost of living raise

Job tenure and the above two posts both point to the same underlying attitude that I see and hear all the time. Employees become comfortable in their situation and begin to feel entitled. This feeling of entitlement leads to the employee sitting back and coasting through their 9-5. I believe that employees with job tenure should not only avoid an attitude of complacency but should be working on re-inventing themselves quarter after quarter and year after year. 

Why Employees with Job Tenure need to reinvent themselves:

  • Employees with job tenure are usually the highest paid employees within a department. After years of job experience and cost of living raises, employees with job tenure salaries have crept up.
  • Employees with job tenure are usually looked to as the individuals of influence within the department. 

For the salary that tenured employees are paid, managers will need to ask if you are still bringing the relative value you were when you were first hired?  Can your manager hire two in-experienced employees for the cost of a singled tenured employee? 

Employees with job tenure can fall into the same trap as we do with our personal relationships.  When we first met our significant others, we moved mountains to impress them.  Why did we move mountains?  Silly goose, we wanted to get into their pants of course!  We bought them flowers, we made them mix tapes / CD’s / playlists and we held boom boxes over our heads outside their homes playing Peter Gabriel soundtracks.

With each successive date, we tried to re-impress our new-found crush in an attempt to raise the bar of chivalry so we could round the bases. If you are in a relationship and the romance has died, then don’t count on your tenure to mean anything.  

Why would I blog about this? Because I see too many employees become complacent over the years and this attitude only brings trouble. Actually, it gets them laid off and in the unemployment line, and then bitter because the company didn’t show them any loyalty for the years of service.  

Guess what happens when you have a majority of your workforce working with an attitude of complacency.  

Another example that comes to mind is the gaining weight. We all graduated from high school in the best shape of our lives. Oh, how we wish we could look like that again. After a few years in the real world, you gain a few pounds. The first few years, the extra weight doesn’t show. You can hide it with a loose shirt and you blame your ill-fitting pants on multiple cycles in the dryer. With year two, we gain another few pounds and with year 3 yet another couple. These first few years, that blousy shirt is still working its magic. 10 years later, those 2 to 3 pounds a year look more like 25 pounds overweight and the number of responses on wouldn’t be as high as it used to be.  

It is easy to fall into the trap of becoming complacent, not just in our day-to-day work but in personal lives as well.

Generally speaking, the employee that has been with the company for 10 years is being paid more than the employee that has been with the company for 1 year. If you have been with the company for 10 years, hopefully, it is your performance and results that justify your high salary and not your tenure. Notice I didn’t mention skill set or knowledge.  You can have both of these, but it is results that matter.

If I had to pick between two employees and one had 10 years of tenure and the other was green, I wouldn’t just pick the employee with 10 years.  I would look at each employee individually and ask my self these questions:

  • Do this employee still have “the fire”? 
  • Are they still helping move the company forward?
  • Is the employee just as excited to come to work as they were the day they were hired?
  • Is this employee bringing results relative to their pay grade?

Everyone has heard the term “last one in, first one out” or “last one hired, first one laid off”. This might have been the case a few generations ago, but in this economy, managers are looking for value. The company is paying the employee and the company wants results. Competition doesn’t just come from the business down the street or on the other side of town.  Competition in this economy is coming from countries with much lower average annual salaries.  Businesses can’t afford to keep highly compensated employees just because they have a few years under their belt. Businesses can afford to keep tenured employees because they are producing results relative to the pay.

You don’t want to pay Ferrari prices for a Kia and you don’t want to pay Filet Mignon prices for lunch meat.  It’s completely OK to be lunch meat.  Lunch meat serves a purpose. Just don’t taste like lunch meat and collect a Ferrari salary.

Show your manager you are not complacent lunch meat

Take the initiative to meet with your manager and set personal goals. 

  • No manager wants to go through a goal-setting process with employees.  Make it easy on your manager and show them you care about your career and your company.  Let them know what you are going to accomplish in the next month or the next quarter.  Have 4-6 goals that are quantifiable and will help your department or company move forward.  All managers appreciate this format.  SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely are a good format.
  • Halfway through your time period, give your manager an update on the progress you are making.  This update can be in an email, or face to face.  If it is face to face, follow-up with an email so they have a record of your progress that can be easily dropped into your file. 
  • This check-in also gives your manager the opportunity to tweak your goals.  If you are working on something and the department or company goals change, your personal goals will need to adapt.  Don’ worry about wasted work.  You are being PAID to do a job.  If you made 2 months of progress on a project and the goals changed at the last-minute, remember, you were PAID for the last two months.  Your manager didn’t ask you to give back your last two months salary because the goals of the company changed.
  • Let your manager know if you are on track with your goals. If you are NOT on track, give your manager an update so they can update the customer that is depending on your work.  With a heads up, your manager can inform others that are relying on your progress.   
  • At the end of your time frame, meet with your manager and give them an update on the progress you have made.  Make sure to go over these three things:
    1. What you accomplished
    2. What you would have done differently
    3. What you liked about the projects.  (what you didn’t like is deliberately left off of this list)

Rinse, Lather and repeat.  Let your manager know what you are going to be doing in the next cycle.

The above process may sound like a lot of work, but this will ensure your job security.  Your manager wants to work with employees that make their job easier, help the department and help the company.  Usually in that order. 

Some readers are wondering: “Sounds like I am managing my self.  What is my manager getting paid to do?”

My response to the above is your manager will help you with your career or stifle it.  Your manager isn’t going to care about employees that don’t help themselves.  This is human nature.  Only a dysfunctional manager will continue to try to save employees and coach the ones that don’t care.  If you don’t care about your career, your manager shouldn’t and your manager won’t.  Show you care or be as productive as lunch meat.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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