On Tuesday, my friend David Rupert had a post at The High Calling that asked, how much workplace recognition do you need? It was a straightforward article, looking at our need for recognition and praise in the workplace, and wondering how much was sufficient.
It was a painful post for me to read. And that surprised me – because what the article evoked is more than 30 years in the past.
The CEO at the company I was working for was named to a prestigious national commission. Part of his appointment would include writing a series of thought papers on a number of topics. A guy on our speechwriting team, a historian by education, was assigned to be the CEO’s writer for the project, which would last six months. It was a good choice, because the project required historical perspective and understanding.
The only glitch was, the guy’s regular work still had to be done, and there was no budget to hire a freelancer, even temporarily.
Our boss came up with a brilliant solution.
I got his work. All of it. And mine.
For six months, it was hard, on me and my family. I worked long hours. We had a toddler at home. Our house needed extensive work and total renovation of the gardens.
The work got done, and it got done well.
It was six very long months, requiring a lot of sacrifice from me and my wife.
But it ended, and our colleague assumed his regular work. He joked that it had really been an easy six months. I smiled.
A few weeks after his return, we were in our weekly staff meeting, when the head of the department announced a special item on the agenda. My colleague was recognized for the outstanding work he had done for the CEO and presented with a special award (a check). Everyone applauded.
The meeting ended.
I went back to my office. And thought about what had happened.
I hadn’t expected special recognition, or a check. If recognitions were going to be handed out, a simple “thank you” might have been welcome. But that wasn’t forthcoming.
Still, this hurt.
I had done two jobs for six months, and done them well, and made possible the work by my colleague that got all the recognition.
I said nothing. It would have been easy to shake my fist and get angry and talk about how unfair everything was. I didn’t. But my wife knew.
And yet, it wasn’t all bad.
A little over a year later, I got a job in another department, a promotion. The hiring manager told me that one of the reasons I was selected over the other candidates was that he had seen the work I did during those six months.
I didn’t think anyone had noticed.
I learned something: there is Someone who always notices.
Photograph: Offices at Night by Petr Kratochvil via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.