According to Webster Dictionary, the phrase “on the bench” can be applied to multiple situations, such as a judge presiding over a courtroom, or to someone waiting for a chance to participate in a sports game, or to someone having been removed from participation.  Similar to athletics, in construction employment we often see those who identify as industry professionals “benched” for various reason.  And again, as in sports, the better players in construction are benched less often.  The difference with sports and construction is the players in construction are not followed by performance statistics, and often blame their company for their misfortune. Companies often do not discuss the full reasons for dismissal even if they are behavior or performance related.

Some companies have bench programs built into their business models for superintendents who do not keep their funnel full between projects. We typically see this in fast-track and retail environments where they could spend up to two months in the program, with or without pay.

In the midst of the pandemic and recession this year, many construction management professionals were furloughed or laid off for the purpose of maintaining the sustainability of the company.  Each company has its own justification for who stays and who goes.  Oftentimes job performance, loyalty and compensation are evaluated together, and if any one of these is not reaching standards, the business relationship may be terminated if that situation is perpetuated.

So how do you increase your odds of spending more time in the game and less on the bench?  Much of this is psychological, as with sports.  Exploring your mind will certainly help.

The article linked above says that “High-performance athletes claim that 90% of their success comes from mental training and ability. In professional sports, there aren’t huge differences between athletes in terms of potential, training, or physical ability. The determining factors of success, therefore, lie in the psychological realm.”

My assessment for construction workers would be that much of their success is also rooted in the psychological realm.  The top management, support and trade professionals are good at their job, not because they think about how good they are at their job, but because psychologically they think about how they can become better at their job and improve themselves for the betterment of their careers companies.

Let’s take the main points from the article and apply it to a career in construction.


The top performers are “consistently consistent” and have the drive for self-inspiration despite the circumstances of the day, the people with which they work, and the projects to which they are assigned.


They stay focused on their careers and don’t become sidetracked by unexpected events.  They know how to clear their minds and redirect their focus to what is required for their job without dismissing the highs and lows of their personal lives, instead of properly managing them in their minds.

Emotional Control

Learning how to control your emotions and reactions during interactions with others, both in person and online, could make the difference between success and failure.  Those who learn life is 10% of what comes your way and 90% of how you react to it are those who stay calm through difficult times.


Your ability to confidently state what you have done with examples and what you are willing to do when interviewing for a new team or working within your existing team.

You may have been working in construction your whole career and yet find yourself on the bench more often than you wish to be.  Even if you are extremely skilled, without motivation, concentration, emotional control and humble self-confidence, your teammates and employer may choose to bench you over someone else, even if that person does not have the same skill set.

And most of all, understand the expectations of the job. Irrespective of your position, how we document, manage, communicate and deliver projects is ever-changing.

To Less Bench Time and More Time in the Game,

Suzanne Breistol


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