Glue work

Every senior person in an organisation should be aware of the less glamorous – and often less-promotable – work that needs to happen to make a team successful. Managed deliberately, glue work demonstrates and builds strong technical leadership skills. Left unconscious, it can be career limiting. It can push people into less technical roles and even out of the industry.

— Being Glue (Tanya Reilly)

Fantastic talk from Tanya Reilly on the importance of “glue work”.

While Tanya’s coming at this from the developer/technical project manager role, it got me thinking about the importance of “glue work” in other areas, and how the perceived value of it depends on who you have for a manager.

I’m a bit of a volunteer junkie on my teams. Documentation, processes and reports are tasks I’ve bestowed on myself because I like the work and I know it’s helpful in the long run. Thankfully I’ve had managers who see and appreciate this. I’m grateful for that, and I’m sure it played a role in my promotions over the last few years. But not everyone is as lucky.

Case in point: Tanya explains how women usually find themselves taking this work on. It’s a question of stepping up and volunteering. Based on the research, women volunteer more than men. But unless their managers recognize the work, it goes unrewarded.

Leave a Comment