If you need to ask yourself if you are ‘adding value’ at work, you are very likely doing something that is not valuable. Let me put it this way, a plumber is not going to turn up at your house, fix the pipes and then ask if he has added value. Neither is a nurse. The work done is inherently valuable. They do not need to find extra ways of adding value.
The reality is that ‘adding value’ is the domain of paper shuffling in bureaucratic organisations. The more senior you become, the more the job is about CYA and politics. In fact, many junior people will tell you that their worst nightmare is managers and bosses trying to ‘add value’. Where this often becomes about stroking their egos. Feeling like the managers have contributed something, when in their hearts they know they are really empty suits.
So, feeling the need to add value is a good indicator of pretence. The need to create smoke to show that there really is some fire there. The whole situation tells you a lot about the fundamental set-up of big corporate life. It is more like an act — particularly amongst the managerial class — of looking as if you are doing something useful. Much of the ‘work’ is most likely redundant. I suppose this what the late David Graeber would refer to as ‘bulls*it jobs’.
Beyond adding value at work
Breaking free begins with first recognising the nature of your work. Are you compelled to feel like adding value at work because there fundamentally is none? If so, is this the path you really wish to walk, or might personal fulfilment be found elsewhere? Perhaps by engaging in something that is fundamentally valuable?
Only by really asking the question will you find the answer.
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.