May 10, 2012

How Much Workplace Recognition Do You Need?

For months I worked on the redesign of a major program. I skipped lunches, brought work home, and even dreamt about it. It was consuming.

As it neared completion, there was an unexpected change in management due to a reorganization. The previous manager, who championed my pursuit of the project, was gone. The replacement had a whole different set of priorities and a new agenda. My completed project landed on the new manager’s desk with a dull thud. I can still remember him thumbing through the pages of the report like it was an unwanted catalog. Without hearing a single gracious, thankful word for my efforts, I skulked away.

All that work for nothing.

We like praise. We love praise. We crave praise. I don’t care how humble you are, there is still a welling of pride that comes when others recognize the work of your hands.

It started as children when even the simplest drawing with a blunt crayon was hung on the refrigerator. Proudly beaming for days, we sulked when it finally had to come down. Something inside of us wants our efforts to be applauded.

"Look at me!"

Although we might coyly wave off words of admiration, we sneak a smile in when we are alone. Our inner human is stroked by the scratch of praise. It feels good to know that our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, that our duty isn’t performed in a vacuum.

"He finally noticed!"

It doesn’t have to be a parade. It doesn’t have to be a party. It just has to be a thank you, and satisfaction runs through your cells like flannel on a cold January night, warming the core.

Admittedly, the words of others affirm us. They measure our worth. They justify our value and reinforce our sense of importance. Without these words, without any external appreciation of our contributions, some of us may wither . . . or worse, finally rebel.

How many wives or husbands give up after years of not being appreciated? Toiling in anonymous labor, they finally run to someone who will take notice.

How many employees sink to the lowest common denominator, just clocking in because no one ever found the time to pass on a little appreciation?

"I keep giving and giving and no one seems to notice."

But ask yourself this: Just how important is that validation? Is appreciation a prerequisite for giving your all? Or are we called to higher standard, performing to full capacity despite who notices?

Here are some tough questions:

• Could you work an entire career without ever being recognized?

• Can you live in an affirming relationship that is not reciprocal?

• Is it possible to always give and never expect thanks?

Image by Michael. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by David Rupert.

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