Modesty, humility and hiding your light under a bushel are all very well if you're going for sainthood, but if you're pulling out the best ideas in the boardroom and not getting the right recognition at work for them, modesty and humility can go to hell. Not getting the proper credit for your hard work can be a tricky issue; you may feel that pushing for that extra award or shout-out in the next HR newsletter makes you look "pushy" or "too aggressive," but damn it, be aggressive. If you put in the work, people should know about it — not just because it feels good to be noticed, but because it's likely to lead to good performance valuations, promotions and general respect. You deserve that sh*t.
There have been a lot of public conversations this past week about the importance of women feeling free to be assertive at work — and how we often pass on that in order to be seen as "likable," non-confrontational, sweet and unthreatening, because that's how society has trained us to behave. That doesn't sound like a good reason to keep downplaying your accomplishments, right? And if that's not enough, Jennifer Lawrence definitely wants you to get what you deserve, whether it's a pay rise, a public pat on the back, equal pay, your name on the project head or just a casual thank-you in the hallway. And you don't want to let her down, right? What you do and how much effort you put into it does matter; you worked hard for this applause. So how do you get it?
If you're feeling shortchanged in the recognition department at work, here are ten ways to make sure everybody knows exactly how big a deal your achievements are.
1. Figure Out What You Deserve
The idea of recognition is a broad one, so you should figure out exactly what kind of recognition you want before you start figuring out what you need to do in order to make it happen. What do you feel your work entitles you to? What are you not getting that you wish were possible — and what's standing in your way? If the issue is a personality clash, it's going to be a lot trickier to figure out — but if it's some kind of communications issue where your boss isn't clear about what exactly you're contributing at work, it may be a bit easier. Figure out your specific recognition goals and work towards them, rather than working towards something more nebulous, like a general sense of respect from your bosses.
2. Small Fights Matter As Much As Big Ones
I work as a librettist for a composer. It's a wonderful but occasionally thankless job, since producers and directors sometimes forget that the pretty rhyming words that the cast sing don't magically appear out of thin air. And it's the small things that can rankle me the most: not getting comped tickets for a performance of something I wrote, or not getting my name in the program. Don't feel like you should "trade off" on tiny bits of recognition and only focus on "bigger issues." Those small elements add up, and are powerful symbols of how much your work matters. You don't have to sacrifice them in order to go after the big stuff, too — it's not an "either/or" proposition.
3. Be Clear With Senior Personnel About Your Role
One of the reasons you may be getting shafted could be that the people in charge of giving out the gold stars don't know exactly what you do, or why it's important. This is particularly crucial if you've got a very specialized role in your workplace that seems mystifying to everybody else. That mystery breeds ignorance — so if this is the case, revise your job description with HR to be more accurate, and document everything that you do, so you have evidence of just how whopping your contribution is.
4. Assume You'll Be Getting The Correct Recognition
I don't mean "swan around assuming that people will praise your every project and act upset when they don't." Rather, I mean that when you're dealing with people from whom you'd like more recognition, assume that they'll give it to you once you've reminded them that they should. If you want to be recognized in an official document but haven't been, for instance, email the relevant people, politely asking after your inclusion. If they respond with "But why would we do that?", be prepared to justify (also politely). No passive-aggressiveness; just positive assumption.
5. Model Yourself On A Mentor You Admire
Know somebody at work who seems to garner all the medals, special commendations and other stuff you'd like to get on your way up the ladder? Watch to see how they do it. If they're putting people down to get their own recognition or bullying others, stay away — but if you notice they're pushing themselves forward in a way that seems positive and seriously effective, take notes. Their techniques may be a good way to work inside your particular corporate structure.
6. Keep Everybody Up To Date On Your Projects
Don't just tell people the general focus of your job; make it clear what you do day-to-day, too. If you're around the water cooler, find a user-friendly way to describe how your work is contributing to the current project, and be prepared to talk about it. Emails about progress? Make sure everybody is included. This can be tricky if you just report to a direct superior and have to rely on them for wider recognition, but talking to them about keeping higher-ups in the loop may be helpful, too.
7. Be Vocal (Even If Your Job Doesn't Usually Require You To Speak Up)
Getting recognition for your work shouldn't just be reserved for people who have jobs that include advocacy, standing in front of people making presentations, or generally being people-facing — even if your role doesn't involve these skills, your fight for recognition should still be valid. Companies often focus on people with the most high-profile positions, or people whose roles require them to frequently interact with the public — but you shouldn't be shy about coming forward to get your role noticed. Be on deck when presentations involving your work are made, volunteer information when questioned about it, and generally get involved in discussions about it — if you can contribute, you'll be remembered.
8. Make Getting Credit Part Of Your Negotiations
If a previous collaborator stiffed you where credit is concerned, make getting credit a condition of your next work project or job, whether it's small or large. Get it in writing if you can. This may be tough for you to negotiate if you're conflict-averse, but try to get others on board to explain why this is a necessity for you. Sure, respect isn't quite as important as money, but it's not exactly soul-enriching to be a silent partner without consenting to it.
9. Enlist Others To Fight For You
Advocates on your team who are willing to speak up about the great work you do can be really helpful, especially if you're feeling massively shortchanged. Your advocate can be another member of your work team, a direct superior or even someone higher on the totem pole at work, but it generally should be somebody with whom you have a close working relationship, somebody who respects your skills and agrees with you about what you deserve.
10. Ignore The Need To Be "Likable"
Being likable is not the same as being diplomatic. Being likable means couching everything in a way that contains a get-out clause in case somebody disagrees or thinks you're being "mean." Meanwhile, someone who is diplomatic can be ruthless, assertive and absolutely ball-busting, while still being genuinely respectful. Make meetings to argue for your position with this distinction in mind. Do not crawl back in your shell the second somebody comes at you with interrogative questions about why you deserve credit; be prepared with reasoned defense, evidence and a structured plan of attack.
And don't be above threats— but make sure that they are reasonable, and follow up on them. If your contributions are being seriously and repeatedly overlooked or ignored, the threat of leaving may make the powers that be appreciate you a little more — but be careful playing that game, as they may tempt you into quitting on purpose. Working in a place where you're repeatedly shown that you're not appreciated is bad for the soul. If it's damaging your prospects and you can go elsewhere, just do it.
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