When someone says they are “in the weeds” it means they can’t really see much beyond what their day to day tasks is. Imagine wading through a bog of cattails, you cannot really see anything and your lucky to know which way to go at all!

The longer you are in one organization, the more likely this is for most people.  Organizations will usually give you more and more responsibilities as you stay (hopefully–this is a sign you are doing well) and the deeper you are embedded in these roles, the less likely it is you can “see” what to do outside of them.  Conversely, your understanding and knowledge of how an organization works improves over the course of time as well.  There is a dichotomy in those two ideas but they are not necessarily opposed.

A differentiation point in people is found when they have the capacity to understand different areas of an organization, how they work and how it applies to their own situation.  They can use that information to increase the efficiency or efficacy of their particular situation.  Simultaneously, they can take on more areas for improvement while managing the prior tasks — new responsibilities.  There are only so many people that have capability to do multiple types of work and take on additional capacity due to efficiency.  Organizations are actually doing quite well with these people because their efficiency or efficacy comparative to others that are incapable of such work increases throughput.  Organizations need to be able to recognize that ability and reward it accordingly, if they do not they are both becoming inefficient and running risk of those individuals leaving for organizations that will reward them.  The down side is that if they are recognizing and awarding the wrong people, the whole system is undermined with the potential for significant distress toward organizational goals.

When people want to get promoted, they are likely to cite their time in their roles and how well they perform their jobs.  The problem there is that simply doing your job well should not warrant promotion.  That warrants staying in the same role.  Promotion should happen as you learn how to help the organization in new ways.  Those things can come in all forms, but most likely orient around taking on more responsibility–in the form of task management or potentially educating and managing others’ work.

When people assume that getting promoted is an equation that they provide variables for (X years of work doing Y and Z tasks = new title and 10% increase in salary) it shows that they aren’t thinking critically about their work.  Everyone in an organization is there for a reason.  Understanding how you add value to the organization is paramount to improving output and creating new opportunities for growth.

If you do not know what that means–the easiest way to explain it is that every business has a profit and loss statement (P&L).  Somewhere in that P&L you reside.  You are part of the cost of running the organization.  Your work is needed to help drive the objectives of that organization–likely revenue, gross margin or net income.  It doesn’t matter if you sell directly or are a cost center.  Regardless if you’re sweeping the floors or the CEO, you are in that P&L.   Figure out how what YOU do adds value and do more of it.

This all sounds nebulous.  And it should.  There is no roadmap to tell you how to manage your career or get promoted.  It’s on you to figure it out.  But if you are struggling with that, go back to the P&L and figure out where you fall first.  Try to understand if you are more valuable than your salary; you should be if you are working there.  If you’re not, it’s time to change your role there or find something where you can flourish.