Two kinds of performance cultures: making yourself seen vs being found out

When it comes to who is responsible for making your work and achievements visible to the decision makers that decide on your promotions, raises and other career opportunities, there are two kinds of cultures:

  1. In one culture, management takes the responsibility to see you. You work hard and you work well and they, through observation, processes, systems of feedback and others, actively, comprehensively and objectively inform themselves on who did what. I call these paternalistic cultures.

  2. In the other culture, the responsibility to make yourself known is yours. If, come decision time, the decision makers don’t know about your great work, they will not reward you, and they will not see their lack of information as their problem, but as yours. I call these entrepreneurial cultures.


Now, there is no perfect example of either culture. Any company will have, if nothing else, some legal responsibility towards some kind of quasi-objective performance process, so management will take some systematic steps to inform themselves on who’s doing what. On the other hand, saying that all you need to do is quietly work hard and you’ll be seen and fairly rewarded is delusion. You may, if you get really lucky, but odds are you won’t, and even if you are, you’ll get less than you could have. People, your managers included, will always decide based on what they know and they will be subject to all kinds of biases, like all of us, such as information availability, recency, peak experience, halo etc. If you are not presenting yourself, if you are not making yourself visible, you will lose.

I am not, in any way, advocating a bullshit culture, where mediocrities inflate their mediocre achievements and nobody shuts them down. I despise this kind of culture that is focused on self promotion. I am not talking about ego and I am not talking about being shallow. I am talking about grabbing opportunities, asking to be put on the high visibility projects, learning how to communicate better, how to hold a good presentation, how to interact and how to discuss.

In a generally paternalistic culture like Romania, most companies will, explicitly and implicitly, maybe without saying it, give the impression that all you need do is work hard and it’s someone else’s job to see you. That is not true. Some try and to some degree they even succeed, but they will never succeed in seeing you as well as you can present yourself, if only you make the effort to do it. Don’t be shy, do it with class, but do it.