I think I can safely say that everyone wants to be recognized for their accomplishments - personally and professionally. Without seeming desperate for attention, how does one go about creating the right circumstances for receiving recognition at work? For that matter, what does recognition look like - is it a raise or a public pat on the back or is it a promotion? Maybe it’s something else entirely?
What defines recognition for one doesn’t define it for all, of course. But I would think that people of all types want, at the very least, to be shown that their work is valuable and appreciated. And if that isn’t happening, well, badness is sure to follow. So what can one do to improve the situation and get the recognition you so deserve?
Looking for Inspiration
I read a lot for this job. In researching this topic, I came across an article about why people get passed over for promotion. Hoping to learn something valuable, I discovered that there are some really awful people in “corporate America” posing as leaders. Ugh. Rather than give recommendations for ways to communicate better or initiatives to take, the article went on to talk about how your employer isn’t your parent, promotions aren’t about rewards & punishments, you should work harder and longer hours, you shouldn’t make mistakes, there aren’t politics at work, and it culminated with “if you don’t like it, leave.” Gosh. Not quite the inspiration I was looking for.
I am fairly certain that the things I’m going to write about here would not fit into this guy’s leadership style. I’m also fairly certain that it was the only article he published (I couldn’t find anything else he wrote and I won’t name him).
What I can say about him is that this “love it or leave it” attitude, this “your job owns you” leadership style is NOT what I would consider sustainable or desirable. I have other ideas.
Pay It Forward
Find a mentor inside your company.
It should be someone you click with, not necessarily someone in your own department. The mentor relationship is more about learning how to navigate the employer’s business and workplace than it is about your actual job function. Further and better, instead of looking for a mentor, become a mentor. And if your employer doesn’t have a mentoring program, well, you might just be the right person to start one!
As a mentor, you’re likely to learn as much (or more) than your mentee. And this kind of forward payment is one way to show initiative without having to add in extra hours to your work week. And because a mentoring relationship is opt-in for both parties, it’s all the good feels without the extra stress.
Learn Something New
It’s never a bad idea to learn something new.
Assuming you like your job and your area of expertise, you probably don’t want to learn something completely unrelated to your current position. Think, instead, about expanding your knowledge in a logical and progressive fashion. Rather than jumping to something completely new, if you’re in tech support, consider learning about security and compliance. If you’re in user support, consider learning about networks and network security.
Look at the path you want to take at your job (or in your career in general) and direct your efforts in learning skills and techniques you’ll need for your next move forward.
Communicate with Your Manager
Your manager is your partner in your success at work… if the company culture is healthy, that is.
In a healthy relationship, you should be able to sit down with your manager and ask about how to unlock the “New Title” achievement. She should be able to help you design a path that will keep you interested and motivated and benefits the company.
You are having regular 1:1’s with your manager, right? Everyone I talk to uses their 1:1 time differently - mine tend to meander, sometimes we talk about projects, sometimes we talk about family, sometimes we talk about career direction. The ability to do that comes from having mutual respect and trust. I can tell you for certain that if I were feeling like I wasn’t getting the recognition I deserved, I would use my 1:1 time to discuss the situation and to brainstorm ideas on how to improve it.
Create a New Project
One of the ideas that will probably (hopefully) come out of your meeting with your manager is to create a new and valuable project.
One big idea, well-timed, can make the difference between your being just another employee and Employee of the Month. But how do you come up with something new and interesting and valuable? Brainstorming.
The key to brainstorming is that you don’t evaluate…you just name things. Make a list or use a mind mapping tool and just write things down. No judging. No decisions on which are “the best” and which are “impossible” at this moment. Brainstorm for 15 minutes…just making a list with a quick description. Then walk away and do something else for an hour. When you come back to the list, you’ll be able to see it with more clarity. Pick out 2 or 3 of the ideas on your list and flesh them out. Keep refining them until you see which one is more promising and has you most interested and excited.
Present your Big Idea to your Manager or your Team once you have defined the scope, the benefit to the team, the benefit to the company, and the costs involved. Even if it fails to come to fruition, the exercise shows effort and interest in your employer. This should gain you the recognition and validation you want from your work.
Of course, nothing is possible without believing in oneself.
Bottom line is that we can hope to get respect/recognition/validation from others, but the only real control we have is to source respect/recognition/validation from within. And we have to remember to layer on that self-validation with reckless abandon.
When we self-validate, we need to be realistic with ourselves. We’re not just looking in the mirror and telling ourselves that we are brilliant. We are honestly evaluating the work we have done up until now. We are using the documentation strategy from this article to help us gather this information. And then we are deciding if we have done our best work (without comparing ourselves to other people) and if our best work has benefited our employer as well as ourselves. If the answer is yes, then we should, of course, unabashedly admit that we did good work and that we add value to our team and to our company.
Treat yourself well, even when others might not. Respect yourself. Recognize that you have built a life for yourself and, while you may have had help, YOU did it. YOU got you to this place. YOU did the work. YOU did the right thing. YOU put one foot in front of the other. YOU won yourself this job. Be proud of yourself. Stand up for yourself. You got this.