I Don’t Know What He/She Does

Doug Thorpe
3 min readNov 16, 2022

There are no words that ring more sadly in our work world than when a boss is asked about an employee and says those words. I know. It happened to me once.

I had just completed a 19-month assignment leading a large team of professionals through a tough assignment. We were geographically split and tasked with mountains of detailed analysis and transaction review. Literally, millions of accounts were in scope.

The project netted the company tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Yet 90 days after it was over, I was sitting with a senior partner of the firm who told me the owner/founder didn’t know what I did, so my role was now in jeopardy. I couldn’t believe my ears.

The owner had been very hands-on with the project, routinely calling on me for insight, updates, and strategies to decide the next steps. We had shared details over dinners too numerous to count. Yet now, “he didn’t know what I did?” You can’t be serious.

Nonetheless, it was true. My future with the firm ended that month.

Easy Excuse

Now, you might be quick to say the owner is an idiot. Believe me, I thought that for a time. But I’m not inclined to go there.

Rather I chose to take the indictment at face value and ask myself, what should I have done differently? Despite the many meetings, clearly, I had not communicated or demonstrated value to the owner. Granted, my time with that company prior to this whale of an account had flown under the radar. Some local leaders knew me and put me up for the project, but the owner was out of state and seldom interacted with others below the partner level.

My opportunity to shine for the owner was overshadowed by my own sense of duty to dig in and get busy doing what I was supposed to do.

The Worker’s Conundrum

This fate falls on most employees. You get hired, you take a role, and simply get busy. Your opportunity to engage with senior leaders is limited. They have their jobs, you have yours. So things rock along.

But when promotion opportunities open up, who gets the job? Invariably the open job goes to the person who has in fact made an impression on the boss. So the question is, how do you do…

Doug Thorpe

Business Advisor and Executive Coach for Entrepreneurs & Large Corp Executives | Maximize People, Process & Profits