Category Archives: Being a Subordinate At Work Has Its Rewards


Just like hard-working bees, if you put the time in and are willing to learn , you can benefit from even the worst job
Photo: PixelAnarchy

It’s not about money or connections. It’s the willingness to outwork and out learn everyone. – Mark Cuban

Sometimes in our society, we tend to have an attitude that this or that form of work, such as an entry level job, is somehow beneath us. Tedious grunt work isn’t dignified enough for us.  After all, doing such work requires us to be subordinate to another individual. We often feel that because we are well-educated, sophisticated citizens of the Information Age, we have an entitlement to skip through anything menial and advance right away to some position of rank and respect.

We can especially feel this way if we’ve been down-sized from a better paying position of some authority, or have been the ‘victim’ of changing technology and have to retrain for new employment realities.

Whether starting out, or starting over, many times people feel that their work is at best humbling, and at worst, degrading. However, there’s an old adage among actors that there are no small roles — just small (meaning petty) actors.

Smart performers realize ‘there’s gold in them there hills!’ Indeed, this philosophy can be applied to even the lowliest of jobs. Viewed from this perspective, our worst job is often an outstanding opportunity to jump-start a whole new life with a fresh perspective.

As Claude Bristol writes in his book, The Magic of Believing:

Many employees hold to the idea that their work is given to them merely to further their employers’ interests. They never entertain the thought that they are actually working for themselves, with the employer merely furnishing the tools and a place for them to work. There is an old saying that unless a man has learned to take orders, he can never learn to give them. How true this is, but few people, working day after day, ever realize it is within their own power to sit some day in the executive’s place and give orders.

What Bristol is talking about is a fundamental mind shift in which we envision in detail where we want life to take us, reframe how we view our role at work with our ultimate goals in mind, and adopt an industrious, forward momentum-generating mindset that makes the greatest possible use of just about any job. In the process, a job we dislike can change from a near punishment into a viable, strategic part of achieving our longer range goals.

Of course, this way of processing our world and our place in it does require a willingness to work harder than others (insert bee analogy here), and to ‘set our cap’ to life-long learning as perpetual connoisseurs of new information, ideas, and modes of thinking.

Built into this approach is action. Action is what fuels forward momentum, and forward momentum unlocks opportunities that otherwise might have remained out of reach.

Of course, there is always the boss or supervisor from Hell and that is problematic. But in most instances, a stint under someone else’s dominion can be the best preparation and schooling out there.


  • You can be a virtually incognito observer of human nature. And as calculating as it may sound, knowing what makes people tick can come in mighty handy when you need to ‘sell’ an idea or a product
  • A lower profile and less responsibility is useful in the beginning because you can observe and learn from the mistakes in interpersonal communication, negotiation, and tactical decisions you see others who are in authority make
  • You can make note of the behaviors you admire in those around you who inspire others and who are themselves inspired, and begin ‘modeling’ those behaviors
  • You can make notes of bad practices you intend to avoid as you form your own ‘code of conduct’
  • You don’t need to ‘take your job home with you’ to the same extent as you would with more responsibilities and a greater workload. This gives you evenings and weekends to ‘hone your own craft’ assiduously
  • The whole organization is your ‘textbook’ and you can learn the business from the ground up, eventually becoming the acknowledged expert in your field
  • You can leverage your expertise into other entrepreneurial ventures such as marketing your own information products. Such endeavors will provide you with both additional income, and invaluable experience
  • Because expectations for you are automatically lower in the beginning, you can make properly timed, valuable contributions through useful ideas and personal initiative which will set you apart from the crowd. Utilizing a certain degree of ‘the element of surprise’ can get you noticed for promotion.
  • You can enjoy the intrinsic reward of knowing that even the most basic job contributes to the smooth functioning of the organization, which in turn helps you and your fellow employees stay employed

As Little Richard once sang, “It ain’t what you eat, it’s the way how you chew it!” Put that way, being a subordinate, for awhile, is actually superior.

Please leave your thoughts on this subject in the Comments section below.

In the meantime,

Bestest to all,

Cynthia Dalton signature