Being Glue

Originally from Black Friday’s Darker Side – Business Psychology and Strategy #23

Some people’s day to day job is to be glue. They bring together disparate parts of the business to collaborate, they help onboard newbies, they write documentation, and they help others to deliver on time. Which is great for the business. But not for that person, if these activities are not in their job description.

There are a couple of issues here. First, management don’t always realise how much glue work needs to be done. Second, management don’t always realise the value of glue work. Combined, some-one well meaning will step up to do the glue work, and won’t be rewarded for the value that they bring. The way to deal with this, at least according to Tanya Reilly, Principal Software Engineer at Squarespace, is to stop doing glue work until you are promoted to a point where it is valued.

Glue work isn’t an issue for everyone. As reported in this HBR article, women are 48% more likely to volunteer for non-promotable work, and are 44% more likely to be volunteered by a manager. And forget the excuse that “women do that kind of work because they are better at it.” a) It’s not true, and b) if women are the only ones who do that work, then they are the only ones that get practice. The solution, in part, is for everyone to be more aware of glue work and who does it. One of the reasons why glue work is spread out so unequally is because so much of it goes on in the “background”, so one of the solutions is to bring it into the foreground.

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