Are you relevant in the office?

ExecuTips - By Robert Labayen

Posted at Apr 06 2015 08:03 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2015 07:53 AM

In my first job I was a waste of space.

The drum container factory hired me as a personnel clerk. Not because they needed my services but because my cousin personally knew the general manager.

In that factory, every one had to be doing something every second of the 8-hour day. But I didn’t have anything to do. The others were not willing to share their tasks because they had their own job insecurity issues, too.

One day, the senior clerk asked me to put all vacation leave forms in a folder. I complied and began to slide the paper holes through the metal fastener. I was doing it very slowly so I would be “busy” up to closing time. But I was already finished two hours early! So, I pulled out the sheets one by one to repeat the whole procedure!

I was jealous of our janitor. When he was absent, the whole office was in near panic. They complained about the smell and the wet floor of the toilets. Every one missed him when he was away for one day. I was sure no one would care even if I went on leave for a whole year!

My wish then was to be a little more valuable. At that time, I was getting minimum wage but I knew my value to the company was not even worth a tenth of my pay. Pathetic.

Today, I am one of the senior officers of our (media) company. Just a few weeks ago, our head of research was complaining that our reality show contestants were not connecting well with the audience. She explained that we needed to improve our promo work…which was my work. At first, I resented her comment because many people were listening, including my boss.

But when I faced my staff I told them: we should not feel too bad when people complain about the quality of our work. They are only affirming the important contribution that our work could offer. If our work was not important, who cares about its quality? “In fact,” I told them “I was glad that the big boss was listening so she would also appreciate the relevance of our department."

Working for over 30 years, I have heard a lot of people complain about too much work, about tight deadlines and demanding bosses or clients. I understand how they feel. But if your boss has not asked you to do anything important and urgent in the past 2 weeks, it is not likely that the company will still need you around in the next two months!

I have observed that people who choose to feel relevant are often enthusiastic, productive and therefore promotable. In contrast, those who resent the bosses’ comments are more likely to quit or to fall into extra furniture-status.

Many years ago when I was already head of a whole creative department, I was still threatened with being irrelevant. The five creative directors under me wanted to prove to me, the new boss, that they could do their tasks on their own. Besides, creative people are always possessive when it comes to ownership of creative ideas.

So, I adjusted my role. Instead of giving them specific creative ideas, I decided my role was to teach them how to become more creative. My job became even more distinct!


Here are other tips that may help ensure your value in the office.

1. Make your output unique. For example, if you are all writers, develop a style that can only come from your element.

2. If your output is uniform with those of everyone in the same rank, be the one that’s most fun to work with it. Offices don't like to keep those who exude negative vibes.

3. If your boss is very smart and doesn’t seem to need your help, don’t wait to be told what to do. Come up with initiative ideas. It doesn’t matter if they don’t get implemented. You’re just giving yourself a chance to look good. You may even actually come up with something he’s been too busy to imagine !

4. Even if you’re better than your boss, don’t make him irrelevant. Always give him a chance to comment. If you wish to disagree with him, be alone with him or be tactful. (This will be discussed in a separate article.)

5. If you think you are better than everyone else, don’t flaunt and don’t fight for credit. You will be target practice for dagger throwers.

I once read a book about thinking positive for money. It said that you can’t attract wealth by simply wishing you had it. You first have to produce something of value to this world, then the world will be willing to pay.

So, what will your unique contribution be?


In 2014, The Creative Guild honored the author with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Advertising.

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About the Author:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was the Executive Creative Director of Ace Saatchi and J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading Ad Agency. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.