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Author's profile photo Jutta Villet

About Token, Novelty and Trophy Employees

They are in disguise, they are white elephants, only some are aware, most in denial: the tokens, trophies and novelties. It’s not about how you got your job but why. You could have applied or got headhunted – it is not the way you got your foot into the door but why you were invited in. It does not even depend on the position itself nor is it often intended, but sometimes throughout the hiring process, you will feel the hint and get suspicious that it is not just you that’s of interest: hidden in that extra interest shown, that one additional question or the certainty of a smile.

The good thing is, most Managers are not even aware of their subconscious hiring decision and don’t have bad intentions, really, they don’t. Because even at the moment when the “perfect fit” feeling is covering up the greedy need to seek out employees, everything is rationalised.

Once it is over, the new job has started and you sit down on that chair, you know. If you are in doubt why you got the job, maybe it is not just you who got hired, but everything about you. Or, it was your intention all along and you enjoy that prickle of your new line on your resume.

A box to tick, a prize to keep.

You are a target, but maybe that’s not even a bad thing.

And for the rest of us, don’t worry, our life might just be a whole lot happier being a worker bee with values, honesty and pride.

Token – The royal pity prize

It’s embarrassing really. No one wants to be a token. It’s usually related to discrimination and appearance. Are you somehow exotic? You might have won the royal pity prize. You are officially a badge, a souvenir and a pledge. You are a proof, a statistic and a statement. But don’t worry, you are only a good token if you are not too different. Enough to standout, enough to fit in – nobody would want any effort with you.

I was once a Token, I played my cards, I did not mind. I was quite young and being a Token advanced my career, opened doors and made me proud. Many moons later, I would not settle for the pity prize again as it has become a warning to me. I am no keepsake, I don’t need applause to be the evidence of an all-inclusive life.

Companies invent special programmes, collect more stats on your being, make you a case study. Oh you valuable token thing.

Novelty – The new shiny toy

Egos, they love being a Novelty and they love to entertain them too. The strangeness and surprise, doing it for the game, having a preference for entertainment. I have seen novelty placements, hires done for the curiosity of managers wanting a new plaything. A Novelty is typically a young career starter with stars in their eyes and a manic desire to work.

They sparkle bright without wrinkles and make you disgust when you walk past. You laugh at them for their inexperience but fear them because they make you look less ambitious and achieving. Novelties are the fresh and hopeful, and they preferably get hired into organizations with a need to pile up innocent positivity. And the Novelties themselves like to please, they get high on their own enthusiasm and indulge their own originality. Their energy provides companies with a sense of  ambition, showing that hiring a Novelty is more about the manager hiring them rather than the person being employed. I feel sorry for them, shiny toys often get played with and fade away quickly.

Trophy – You are mine now

Trophies are my favourite. They mean something, they effortlessly became something. I would not mind being one. Trophies have a specific skill set paired with a unique experience. They are not toys or statistics. They are decisions, highly prized feathers and prestige. I met a few trophy hires and can assure you they are very aware what they are, bank accounts and titles leave no doubt about that. But the life of a trophy is hard, keeping the tag of the golden child, no wrong move and always being on the move.

You can’t keep a trophy for long, they need to be placed like chess, every move in their career making them more desirable. And it is the corporates who worship them, hoping holistic solution comes from this unique, perfect and distinct Übermensch. To look more approachable, they tell stories of their failure, their hard journey to the top, nurturing the feeling of being just one fortunate person in a crowd. But don’t be fooled, charisma is even more important that the shiny pair of glasses and the polo shirt pocket.

The sadness that surrounds Trophies is about their lack of freedom and in some cases tangible achievements. Indeed, there are those out there who move just fast enough not to fail leaving a trail of innovative destruction which needs cleaning up by those left behind.

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      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao

      Thank you Jutta Villet for the revealing and candid perspective of these 3 types of new hires! There are certainly conscious and uncouncisous biases at play here. You share some great advice for people in these roles to move away (or not) from these labels. Do you have any advice for hiring managers or corporations to be more aware of these biases?

      Author's profile photo Jutta Villet
      Jutta Villet
      Blog Post Author

      Excellent question. I wish I had the perfect answer for you but unfortunately I have to disappoint. It is far easier to show discrepancies between the "as is" and "should be" situation than coming up with strategies to combat.

      I can say this much though: When I hired in that past, I did that according a few rules I set out for myself:

      • I asked the candidates for their why"Why" and hoped it would be more than money or career.
      • I tried to hire the more unlikely candidates
      • I looked out for attitude and ability more than knowledge and achievements
      • I made the hiring decision a team decision

      But it is very tempting and easy to be stunned by candidates. Its tough to hire and very easy to be bias so in the end, all that counts is probably self awareness and a few lampposts to guide yourself when you are about to walk into your own subconscious traps.