When asked how to keep a job in a bad economy, a wise man once said, “If they can’t find you, they can’t fire you.”
The success strategy of that wise man, who just happens to be me, would not be endorsed by Caroline Castrillon — the author of “5 Ways To Increase Your Visibility At Work,” a recent post on Forbes.com.
According to Castrillon, “to get ahead in your career, people need to know who you are and what you’re capable of.”
No doubt, the author knows a lot about business, but she definitely knows nothing about you. Because it‘s clear that the only way you will get ahead in your career is for people to not know who you are and never have the faintest suspicion of what you are capable of.
You agree, I‘m sure.
Which brings us to the question of how to become invisible in the highly surveilled business environment of today. And it doesn‘t matter that you no longer work in an office, with your manager peeking over a cubicle wall to catch you hiding under your desk. Even working in the solitude of your bedroom closet, you are still vulnerable. In a digital world where every email is catalogued, every Zoom meeting is monitored, and every keystroke is counted, there is simply no place to hide.
On the plus side, a 2023 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM to its friends) revealed that “forty-two percent of supervisors overseeing remote workers said they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks.”
Alas, not everyone is lucky enough to have a supervisor who forgets they exist.
It will take work to wrap yourself in a cloak of invisibility. How about this: Let‘s look at what Forbes thinks you have to do to increase your visibility and do the exact opposite.
No. 1: Participate in conversations
If you want to be visible, the recommendation is “sharing facial expressions and non-verbal cues, which help foster a sense of connection.” To foster a sense of disconnection, the invisible man or woman carefully picks their facial expressions. Sticking out your tongue when your manager starts to speak or putting a finger in your mouth and pretending to gag when they finish will so overload your manager’s teeny-tiny brain they will completely blank out your presence. They may see you, but they won‘t remember you.
It’s a wonderful technique for expressing your opinion and being invisible, all at the same time.
No. 2: Show enthusiasm for learning
You can stand out from the crowd by “earning certificates or enrolling in courses relevant to your role.” You can disappear from the crowd by enrolling in courses that have nothing to do with your role. Be careful here — a certificate in astrology or a degree in mycology could attract attention, especially if you work for an Aries who spends their vacations hunting for pig’s ears and turkey tails.
No. 3: Volunteer for stretch assignments
You can raise your profile by looking for “cross-functional assignments sponsored by senior leaders.” This means, I‘m afraid, that if you want to stay below the radar, you’ll have to give up those plum stretch assignments you have now, like taking the CFO’s laundry to the dry cleaners and washing the CEO’s Bentley.
No. 4: Share the spotlight
“Sharing the credit strengthens team morale while embracing company culture and building trust,” writes Castrillon. Fortunately, little of what you do is worthy of the spotlight, so don‘t worry about sharing the credit. If that feels uncaring, relax — next time you screw up, share the blame.
No. 5: Establish a strong relationship with your manager
Buddying up with your manager can have an upside to the employee seeking visibility. You can “ask to present at the next staff meeting or town hall,” which could get you noticed as you “develop a reputation as a thought leader.” As a seeker of invisibility, you want to develop a reputation as a thought follower, especially when the thought is to take a two-hour lunch or leave work early.
The rest is easy. Never speak up at meetings and refuse to respond to emails. Change your phone message to “the person you have reached does not exist.”
By ghosting your manager, you could disappear. Remember — as an invisible employee, the highest praise you can receive from a supervisor is, “Do you work here?”
“I definitely do not work here,” you can say. It’s true, too, but as long as you’re invisible, they’ll never notice.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected]. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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