The Successful Career


Judith M. Bardwick, Ph.D.

You can make your work more interesting by adding a sense of learning, stretching, contributing, growing, and initiating. Winning is more motivating than compensation. What does it take to feel like a winner? You have to have continuous chances to achieve; you have to think that what you do is worth doing; you have to be recognized when you do it; you have to have the sense that you’re respected for what you know or do.

Your concept of a “successful career” may have to change. You must find satisfaction, a sense of success, a sense of importance, a sense of learning and winning, as you move laterally and sometimes even lower to different tasks. You will need to be recognized and rewarded for mastering new areas, learning more, and gaining broader experience and perspective.

Increase the categories of contribution and career paths that signal “success.” Esteem can’t be restricted to the few who will climb high on the ladder because productivity requires that the majority feel like winners. People need to experience themselves as successful. Reality will cause many to broaden their concept of success. But it will take time and involve personal struggle.

The style created by hierarchy and bureaucracy no longer works because it divides responsibility, disperses accountability, and makes people passive. They tend to wait to be told what to do and then wait to be told how well they did it.

I’m distressed at how passive most organizations make people. There’s often a lot of overt activity, but typically it’s busy work. It’s not going anywhere; it’s playacting. No wonder people pay so much attention to style, to knowing the rules, to knowing the right people, to not making waves, to never making errors-to not risking, trying, innovating.

When power is distributed more horizontally, work tends to be done in teams, and team members tend to be more equal in status. More emphasis is placed on what people do or what they know, and less attention is paid and status given to how many people they control. People may occupy different ranks, but they are essentially equals because everyone needs everyone else’s input, knowledge, experience and skills. Under these conditions, everyone has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute.

The Bottom Line

A decline in bureaucracy results in:

  • More sense of personal control and confidence because people initiate, experiment and take risks as they strive for creative solutions.
  • More opportunity for more people to achieve and contribute to the business of the business.
  • More involvement and sense of responsibility for the outcome.
  • More emphasis on the professional skills needed to do the task and on the rewarding experience of achieving it rather than on the reward of managing those who achieve.

Over time, I believe that the long-term benefits will be:

  • Less passivity as people no longer look upward to be told what to do.
  • Less paper shuffling and bureaucratic bugallooing as there’s more direct accountability and fewer places to hide.
  • A greater sense of personal power because the aim is more to achieve and less to please.
  • More genuine teams which interact and stimulate creative performance.
  • More honesty because you tell the truth to people you really work with, know and respect.

Being responsible, accountable, and innovative will not only give you feelings of significance at work, those behaviors will also add more vitality to the totality of your life.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *