The need to justify your job
In a recent keynote address by the CEO of Airbnb, he investigated into uncertainties and the company's shift towards a new working model, prompted by a revealing dream about the company they had built.
Here is the talk in case you are interested https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dkfijg7s76o.
Within the main points he addressed in the talk, he explained how he thrives to make designers self-conscious of their power and ability, and how in his own vision they were trying to justify or to make others understand why their input is needed.
While the CEO focused on designers, the underlying message resonates across various roles in any IT company, and made me think about why we ended up getting to the point of explaining our jobs or trying to convince others that our input is needed for the success of the company.
This theme reflects a broader challenge within workplaces, where individuals might find themselves constantly having to prove their worth or defend their decisions, leading to a sense of insecurity and the potential for reduced productivity and creativity. It can also create an environment where employees are hesitant to take risks or propose innovative ideas, fearing potential criticism or rejection.
The unnecessary need
Throughout my career, I've encountered moments where I found myself justifying my job instead of showcasing my achievements. Reflecting on this, I realized that insecurity played a significant role. I often found myself explaining why something took longer than expected or justifying the progress of ongoing projects instead of celebrating tangible results.
Another crucial factor is trust within the team. When we feel compelled to justify our work constantly, it might be a sign that some stakeholders or coworkers lack confidence in our abilities.
Apart from personal feelings, the act of justifying your job can indicate various underlying workplace issues, some of which include:
If job roles responsibilities and scopes are not clearly defined or communicated, employees may find themselves constantly explaining their tasks and activities to others.
Lack of process
Although some people learn and like to live in chaos, depending on the profile having structure and clear processes and which role should be included in which part is necessary to have a clear understanding of what values people add based on roles.
Creation of Unnecessary Roles
During periods of rapid growth or hypergrowth, there might be a tendency to create new roles without a clear understanding of their necessity. This can result in an overload of positions that may not align with the organization's actual needs. Employees in these roles may find themselves justifying their jobs due to the ambiguity surrounding the purpose of their positions.
Poor communication within a team or organization can lead to misunderstandings and the need to continually clarify and justify decisions or actions. Which of course can end up in micromanagement or the creation of silos.
Lack of Recognition
When employees feel their efforts are not recognized or appreciated, they may feel compelled to justify their job to demonstrate their value and worth to the organization.
Resistance to Change
In some cases, individuals may be required to justify their jobs when changes or shifts in the organization create uncertainty about the relevance or necessity of certain roles forcing the company to create unnecessary roles just to prevent attrition.
Fear of Job Insecurity
In uncertain economic times or during organizational changes, employees may feel the need to justify their jobs to protect themselves from potential layoffs or downsizing.
Lack of Empowerment
If employees feel they have limited autonomy or decision-making power, they may feel the need to justify their actions to seek approval from higher-ups.
The never-ending evolution
Working in environments like this, where we ended up getting into the rabbit hole of what we do things the way we do in a continuously evolving domain.
Steve Jobs, once said that we bring specialists of knowledgeable people in different areas so he can delegate and have domain experts that he can trust and help him to move ideas forward.
It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.
Having this sense that, people are assessing the work we do, will only cause a mindset shift in our role and goals.
Making a presentation of what things didn’t work, rather than a feature delivery, and getting shorter feedback loops. Explaining why Frontend engineers are necessary to deliver better engaging UIs, you name it!
If the team or company doesn’t trust the decisions they have taken to develop their product, you are going to be trapped by that decision.
Although things evolved and having a mindset to challenge the current way of working is needed there is something that I like to keep in mind, and it stands as it follows.
It's crucial for organizations to align their expectations and processes with the roles they define. Choosing the right battles and focusing on essential tasks can foster a more productive and empowered workforce.
This means that if we invest too much time explaining why things work the way they do, or why we do things the way we do it might be that there is a mismatch between the people and the working culture of the company.