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Commercial awareness
Commercial awareness

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5 Knowing your place

‘I know my place’ is a phrase that can seem negative and defeatist; consider some of the things it might suggest:

  • I know my place, it’s not my place to be doing anything other than this task.
  • It’s more than my job is worth to step outside my role. I’ll leave it to the bosses to make decisions – I’m just going to do what I’m paid for, do as I’m told and keep my head down.
  • I’m used to my place and it’s where I feel happiest. Why mess with what works for me now?

This course seeks to rehabilitate the phrase ‘I know my place’ because knowing your current place in an organisation – knowing how you ‘fit’ with other individuals and teams – can be a very positive and enriching thing:

  • I know my current place in the wider set of things our company strives to achieve.
  • I know how what I do helps us to achieve our mission and deliver the things that keep us operating.
  • I know that without someone like me fulfilling the role I do, a link in the organisational network would be broken – and the organisation would be weaker – it might well fail.
  • But I also know that ‘my place’ isn’t the same as it was last month, or as it might be next month. The organisation, like the world around it, is dynamic – and for it to respond effectively, I need to too.

Activity 2 Things that would stop without you

Timing: Allow 20 minutes

In this activity, you are invited to take a sort of mental holiday and see how your organisation would get on without you – or someone like you – fulfilling your role. You may be familiar with the film It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra, 1946) in which the lead character George Bailey is led to appreciate his achievements in life by being shown how things would have been had he never existed. That’s what this activity is getting at: give yourself an out-of-organisation experience by imagining the knock-on effects of your work not being done.

  • What sort of requests for service or attention would come in to your workplace, in-tray or inbox, and not be addressed were you (or someone in a role like yours) not there to handle them and add in the value demanded or expected elsewhere?
  • Who would be waiting on the work that is not getting done? What would not happen and why would that be of interest or concern to those you deal with? What about two or three steps further removed along the value chain; what further ramifications would there be affecting the ultimate delivery of goods and services? Your bosses’s feelings matter of course, they’re likely to be upset if you’re not at your post – but of more use on this course is thinking about the wider effects of your disappearance, in terms of drop in effectiveness, income, service level or any other measure by which the value of your organisation is assessed.
  • Look at the gap in value – the you-shaped hole that has opened up between where your work comes in and where it goes out. Taking a view from the positions of your (internal or external) customers and your (internal or external) suppliers opens up a broader picture of what value you are adding.


Why am I studying this? This may strike you as a round-about way of answering the question ‘What am I here at work for?’. The reason for taking this approach is to stress the dependency relationships that exist between you, the people from whom you receive work, those you pass it to and the wider network of stakeholders.