From Where I Sit: Are You Invisible?

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By Tim Springer
Published in the February 2007 issue of
 Today’s Facility Manager

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

—Ralph Ellison

In today’s society of chest thumping, end zone celebrating, ego inflating self-promotion, the idea that success in any area could be largely invisible seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true. To put it another way, people only tend to notice when something isn’t working.

So this begs the question: are you invisible? Does your facility work well enough so you and your efforts (and those of your department) go unnoticed?

Don’t get me wrong; being unnoticed is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, many very skilled and successful facilities managers (fms) are content to stay in the background and keep attention away from themselves. It seems to go with the territory.

This is not to imply that fms don’t take their work seriously or that it is in any way unimportant. To the contrary, most organizations would collapse should facilities management (FM) take a day off or go on strike. Here’s the problem. Most people wouldn’t know why the organization collapsed, and they certainly wouldn’t know what to do about it.

The problem isn’t unique to FM. The world is full of competent, skilled professionals doing their jobs with consummate skill yet receiving little recognition.

In the world of FM, it seems most people only notice the effort involved in effective management when users are discomfited, people are inconvenienced, or major systems fail. That may be one reason why FM professionals are content to remain invisible.

But that, in part, is my point. How can we recognize good FM performance under these circumstances? How can FM as a profession fight the natural tendency to remain in the background? How can one draw appropriate attention to the critical role FM plays in the day-to-day and long-term success of organizations and claim the rightful credit (and resources) FM deserves?

Maybe you or someone you know is perfectly happy to be invisible. Why should it matter?

It matters because, unless and until fms become more comfortable stepping forward and offering—as well as demanding—recognition for jobs done well, it is just too easy to take FM for granted. History shows that things that are taken for granted can be easily forgotten and lost, something FM neither wants nor deserves.

Because good FM tends to be invisible, FM professionals have to accept the responsibility for raising awareness of the role and value they provide. It may require stepping out of that comfort zone and thinking a bit differently, but I believe it is critical and will yield important returns.

I don’t know of any FM professionals who have loads of spare time or are looking for more to do. The job is inherently hectic and fms are often “blessed” with an overabundance of assignments and responsibilities. It is not my intention to add to your load. But I do believe it is time for fms to consider making time to articulate what they do, why they do it, and why it matters.

If you won’t, you may find that by being invisible you may ultimately not matter. That’s the way I see it from where I sit. Of course, I could be wrong.

Springer is president and founder of Geneva, IL-based HERO, inc. and frequently writes and speaks on a wide variety of issues affecting organizations, work, and workplaces. For past columns from Springer, go to From Where I Sit and for future musings from Springer, visit his Web site.

 

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One Response
  1. Randy Weis says:

    As a reformed FM and now business owner, I think FM’s get into a trap of just being reactive to the flavor of the month from the top. Instead of creating the path for the organization they follow what they think the path should be.

    Most FM’s today are focused on very short term reactive cost cutting. The best FM’s will step out of the box and fight for greater budgets and make compelling arguments for them. One of our business’s is carpet care and the life of commercial carpet is proportionate to how and how often it is cleaned. So guess what is the first to go in budget reductions….carpet care. How expensive is it relative to the price of new carpeting…..it is pennies on the dollar and supports a companies sustainability policy when you extend the life of an asset.

    Getting noticed as an FM means stepping out of your comfort zone and challenging the status quo, with facts, arguments etc. Who knows, you might get promoted when you really distinguish yourself from the pack of followers.

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