Being at the same job for 20 years is not necessarily an accomplishment. Punching in, doing what you're supposed to for years on end -- that's not success. That's easy. Easy because it's the safe route. You have a job and you do it mildly well. Don't seek out attention, don't get in trouble.
It's easy because -- no matter how difficult it was at first -- once you learn your job, all you have to do is press repeat each morning.
Some may say that simply weathering the storm as business has changed around you is an accomplishment as well. Don't be fooled. Being at the same company for 20 years and being a driving force in continued change, improvement and growth that's an accomplishment.
If you've been at your company since its beginning, or for more than a handful of years, you are likely to have a get-out-of-jail-free card.
The company has changed its policy on tardiness but you get a pass because well, "he's been here so long and he's already had to adapt to so much."
Or, we now use computers to put together our production drawings. Not you. "He's been doing this since before computers and we're not going to make him learn a new way just because technology has changed."
There is a difference between being loyal and being lazy, between being a valuable member of the team and a self-satisfied impediment we only think we are grateful for.
How can you tell the difference?
If there have been chances to climb the ladder and you've stayed put, if a competitor came out of nowhere with a new way of providing your same service or product, if you have a get-out-of-jail-free card and you use it with pride -- these are the signs of a long-term obstruction. You're not a loyal employee. You're a loyal impediment to growth.
We shouldn't be happy you've stuck around this long, shouldn't be handing out plaques and hosting a dinner in your honor. And really, if you've been such an asset to our company for this huge part of your life, don't you want more than a plaque as a sign of your success?
It isn't just the ability to adapt to a changing world around you, putting up with technology, dealing with new business practices. No, the ability to adapt is necessary for your survival.
If it is success we want -- for you personally and for you as an employee -- then adaptation and survival are not enough. We need ingenuity and cleverness, we need problem solvers and improvement seekers.
No, bouncing from job to job and showing very little loyalty to anyone isn't what we need either.
Commitment is a good thing, but we don't just need your time and dedication to repeating the routine. We need you to make a new one. You've been here the longest. Lead the way.
Kim Bowsher started her management track at the original Starbucks in Seattle. She moved on to helping small businesses, putting to work the lessons she learned in the coffee business. She currently works with a private firm in Salt Lake City. Contact her at email@example.com.