Ranks and Levels in the Workplace

Many of us spend most of our time at the workplace. If you have a job that requires you to go somewhere and interact with people, which is really most jobs, then you have a relative position in the workforce compared to all the other workers. It is easy to see that some people are good at their jobs, and others are bad. Some people have been at their jobs forever, while others just started. Some workers have a lot of responsibility. Others do not. How can you use this information to determine where you fit within the hierarchy of your occupation?

Which turtle are you?

In determining your position at work it may be best to use a two-tier system. Tier one is your level, like in a video game. Tier two is your rank, like in the military.

In many video games you start out small. You don’t have a lot of powers or abilities, and aren’t even sure what you are supposed to do. This is what it means to be low-level. As you play the game, you gain experience points that can be used to level-up. Experience points can be spent to gain new powers, become stronger, or open up new areas to explore. Or you can just hoard them forever. It depends on what kind of player you are.

A player’s level in the game is related to skill, a little, but is really more a reflection of time spend in the game. People who spend a lot of time playing the game will almost always have a higher level than others who give up after the first few hours.

Video Game

“Everyone says I’ll have to do something else eventually, but I’ll show them!”

In the workplace, every employee has the ability to level-up. All they have to do is stick around and do the job. High-level workers are the backbone of any organization, but they don’t necessarily have any say in what the organization does or how it is run. How much control a worker has is not determined by their level, but rather by their rank.

Unlike levels, ranks have less to do with time spent on the job and more to do with specific circumstances. In the military, people gain higher ranks by participation in extraordinary events, and proving themselves in the field. However, there are other ways of gaining rank. Ranks can be gained as a result of politics, or finances. Some people start out with a high rank because of previous assets, like family connections or a special education.

The higher a person’s rank, the more clout they have. High ranked individuals make decisions and shoulder important responsibilities. Just because a person is high ranked doesn’t mean they always know what they are doing, or that they have been around for very long.

Business Baby

This baby is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

An individual’s true position in the workplace is a combination of their rank and their level. Really, there are four possible positions for anyone, not matter how complex the command scheme or how detailed the job descriptions. At the very top are the high ranked, high-level workers. These are the people who are in charge and have been around long enough to know how to do everything. High ranked, high-level workers are extremely valuable, and exceedingly rare.

It is much more common to see people in charge who are high ranked, but low level. A high ranked, low-level administrator can be excellent at their job and completely deserve their authority. Or, they could be terrible and make everyone look bad. The ranks and levels are not necessarily value judgments. They are just positions. If you know someone how has a lot of authority in a job they haven’t had for very long, then they fill the high rank, low-level role.

The next position down is the low rank, high-level worker. I believe these are the best workers. They don’t have the most power or the biggest paychecks, but they keep everything running. At the very least, they have been around long enough to know how to keep their position.

We live in an age where advancement is held up as a guiding star, but there is something to be said about getting really good at something, and then just continuing to do it. It is great to have a stable job, and being in charge is more trouble than it’s worth.

Office Stress

“Wow, my chest really hurts. Is this what power is supposed to feel like?”

At the bottom of the list are the low ranked, low-level workers. These are basically people who fill entry-level jobs. For many organizations, these people are pretty much disposable. It is easy to replace someone who has not power and hasn’t been around for very long. Some places get rid of people frequently so they never have the chance to level up. Many people don’t actually do the job they are supposed to, and they don’t level up either.

If you want to know your position in your workplace, think about your rank and your level. How much power do you have, and how much do you know about the job? Between ranks and levels, I’m not sure which is most important. Only through gaining rank can you increase your amount of control. Then again, levels are always true. Levels can’t be bought or faked or stolen.

I would never pay for a high rank. I guess that’s why I don’t have one!


“If you only knew the things I’ve done to get this office…”