Are You Just Treading Water When You Really Need to Swim?

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Have you ever found yourself relaxed in a comfy chair, either warm by the fire or enjoying a good read with a favorite beverage close by?

Perhaps you’re just letting the day wash over you as you watch TV, or even dosing off a bit? Maybe there’s a sleeping cat on your lap, curled up against any intrusion.

Now, that’s a great picture of someone who’s not living in the moment, but is content with what life has to offer. Ahhhhh.

Careful now — don’t you go and bother with that image; life is fine and dandy just the way it is, and they want to keep it that way.

And then, there’s reality

However, what if you did adjust that picture of warmth and content just a bit, shifting to an office environment with a manager sitting back in their chair, eyes closed with a contented smile. Now this would be a less rosy picture, at least from a business perspective.

True enough, the imagery would remain a snapshot of someone content with the status quo. They would exhibit the same relaxation, the same carefree attitude, the same reluctance to move from where they are. But now the image doesn’t give off the same positive glow. Something is wrong.

Have you seen this picture at work? Or have you imagined something like this behind the closed doors of certain individuals that you can name? Maybe your boss? Or other higher-ups?

But not you, right?

Chances are that a manager with a contented let-life-flow-by attitude isn’t exactly what the boss had in mind at the time of hire or promotion. Didn’t the job description say something about managing the compensation function, directing the company’s reward programs, or even becoming a change-agent for improving pay practices and solving problems?

How is that going to happen with the feet up and the eyes closed?

Who are you?

Ask yourself a simple question. Are you leading programs and employees, or are you administering them? Are you directing what’s going on, or simply going with wherever the flow takes you? Are you willing to make waves to get things done, or are you content to tread water as the clock ticks on?

There are those out there who have reached a plateau and have little or no fire in the belly for more. I’ve seen them, and likely so have you.

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  • They have little stomach for the constant office politics;
  • They want to be liked, which means they avoid any responses that don’t start with “yes!”
  • They may not feel up to the task of making real improvements, so if it isn’t broke they don’t want to fix it.
  • They have the right title, they have the right compensation; they don’t want to risk either.
  • They’re not going anywhere. They’ve burrowed in until retirement. Life is good, and they want it to stay that way.

All this isn’t necessarily a bad deal, and I understand the tendency for risk avoidance. But if the job requirement calls for you to swim to shore, not simply to tread water, then are you performing the job that you’re being paid for?

Wanted: leadership and a sense of direction

Admittedly, some companies are fine with administration. For whatever reason, they don’t need to pay for a go-getter, for someone who is going to stir things up. They’re content with the status quo and only want someone to keep things afloat.

If you have that job, good for you. Join the bowling team.

But I’m guessing that most companies want more from their compensation management. They want leadership, a sense of direction, and someone having the gumption to push things in the right direction.

And if that’s the job you have, then relaxing in the comfy chair of program maintenance, being content to continue with the same pay practices, year after year, will define you as a square peg in a round hole. Eventually senior management will have a “wait a minute!” moment.

Bottom line? Don’t be treading water when you need to swim.

Get out of your chair and make a difference.

This was originally published at the Compensation Café blog, where you can find a daily dose of caffeinated conversation on everything compensation.

Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations.  He is also associated with several HR consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.

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