How to Get Your Work Noticed When People Take it For Granted

In a recent conversation with a group of leaders around the world, a participant mentioned that her work is often seemingly taken for granted. She puts great effort into her projects only to deliver them to a… yawn.

How can you shine more brightly in a workplace that seems oblivious?

In a perfect world, our results should stand on their own. When we deliver something remarkable, the people around us should recognize our brilliance (or at least our effort) and express appreciation.

Yet that’s often not the way the real world works. Granted, sometimes we have bosses who express appreciation for good work. But what if you work in an environment where your deliverables are taken for granted?

I love cycling for exercise and pleasure. For safety purposes, I assume that all drivers are blind and that I am invisible! That’s not only a good idea when on a bike…. It’s also wise advice in the work setting, particularly as teams become more virtual. What if you assumed your boss is blind and that you are invisible?

There are no simple answers that work for every situation and across all cultures. Here are some ideas that I’ve used with executive coaching clients:

  • Results. Never mistake being busy for delivering results. Your reputation must be that you deliver results on time and with high quality. There is no technique or advice that can help you shine if you do not consistently deliver high quality results. As one executive told me, “Credibility is currency“, and one of the best ways to develop credibility is to consistently deliver.
  • Relationships. In our keynote and e-learning entitled The Dirty Little Secret of Business, we stress that everything comes down to relationships. Want more recognition from someone? Make sure you are actively developing a stronger relationship with them. How do they like information presented? What are their “hot buttons”–things that drive them crazy? What do they like? Customizing your work to their unique preferences can help you shine in their eyes. A stronger relationship means there are more opportunities for visibility with them. That provides more opportunities for them to recognize what you are doing.
  • Refer. When delivering your results, you may want to refer to a challenge or two that came up and how the challenge was overcome. This is even more powerful if you can mention how others helped as well. This makes it clear that you are not just talking about your own awesomeness!
  • Repeat. Let’s say someone asks you to do something. There’s actually research that says if you repeat back to the person their request, word-for-word, you are more favorable to the requestor (I learned this from my interview with Dan Pink about his book To Sell is Human). Tipping at restaurants varies by country. But in research done in the U.S., waiters or waitresses that used this technique got bigger tips. I’m not saying this is a major point but an interesting bit of research you might want to try!
  • Remind. We talk about this in our Leadership Fast Track Program module on influence. In Robert Cialdini’s research on influence, he found an interesting influential phrase. When you deliver something on time, say “As promised, here is the report you asked for by today.” The “As promised” phrase subtly reinforces that you keep your promises.
  • Request. In certain circumstances, asking a colleague to send a note of commendation for the work that you did might be a wise approach. I realize this may seem challenging for some cultures known for more humility than we might naturally show in the States. However, there are situations where someone else in the organization knows you are doing great work. But the person who is doing your performance review is unaware. In such a case, you may want to consider requesting that the person in the know send an e-mail to your boss summarizing the work that you (and, if applicable, your colleagues) did.
  • Relax. If you put too much energy into trying to shine, it will become obvious and work against you. Don’t take it personal if someone overlooks your work. Don’t let your satisfaction depend on someone else’s approval. At the risk of sounding idealistic, seek to find joy in the good work you do. I realize you can’t give yourself a raise or promotion, but you can learn to find personal satisfaction in a job well done.

They are blind and you are invisible. It’s wise advise when I’m riding a bike, and if your work situation seems to run that way, try sprinkling a few of these ideas into your weekly routine. Let me know how it goes!

Here’s to you and your work shining more than ever in the weeks ahead!

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