I work on a team that provides specialized services to the sales and marketing groups in a global organization. A lot of our work is time sensitive. My teammates and I pull all-nighters and weekends on a regular basis.
We are dedicated, passionate and skilled—but when we are involved in a big success, we inevitably are left off the list of teams and individuals who contributed. We feel completely taken for granted—because we are.
Our manager forwards the thank-you emails with a note that says “I know you guys weren’t on the list—again.” He is kind of sheepish about it. He isn’t Mr. Sensitive, but he knows it is demoralizing for us. But wouldn’t it be his job to raise the issue with his peers? He is in meetings with all of them all the time. Shouldn’t he be fighting for us to get a little crumb of recognition? I know if we hadn’t come through, we sure would be hearing about it!
Sick of Being Taken for Granted
Dear Sick of Being Taken for Granted,
Yes. Your sheepish manager should be pointing out when his people go unrecognized and their contribution is overlooked. It really is his job, and the fact that he’s sheepish probably means he is vaguely aware of that. It’s hard for a manager to be equally good at managing up, working with peers, and being an excellent leader for the team. One of the most powerful things a manager can do is advocate on behalf of their team to the rest of the organization.
The fact that your manager hasn’t done anything yet probably just means it isn’t on fire for him. If he’s like most managers, his attention is entirely co-opted by what he believes to be his priorities. So your job is to raise the issue and ask him to make it a priority. If you don’t wave the flag about something that is having a seriously negative impact on you, your manager will simply focus on areas where flags are being waved.
When you make your request, be extremely mindful and generous with how you do it.
- Stay focused on the facts.
- This situation has happened the last three times we have gone above and beyond to contribute to big wins.
- This is how it makes me/us feel.
- We respectfully request that you communicate this consistent oversight to the people who announce the wins and send the congratulatory emails.
- Ask some questions.
- How do you see the situation?
- What is your point of view on this?
Our philosophy is that managers do need to have their people’s backs. We all spend a lot of time at work. It can feel like a rugby scrum in the rain, all day, every day. We really need to know that our leader is on our side and willing to stand up for us.
Keep one thing in mind: your manager may not be able to do what you are asking. It’s possible he won’t understand the problem and will still think you should just let it go and get on with your work; or he won’t feel he has enough credibility or power in the organization to ask that his team be included. You can certainly ask him, and he may actually tell you, but probably not.
If this turns out to be true, you might consider raising the issue with his boss. Of course that will depend on the culture of your organization as well as whether you have a relationship with that person. It might really upset your manager—nobody likes a tattletale. But if you position it as a simple request, not as calling out your boss, it might be useful.
Finally, in the event that you have relationships with the heads of the teams you serve, you might be able to ask them yourself. I know that any time someone draws my attention to folks who have been overlooked, I appreciate their help and try to correct the slight immediately. But my organization is small and pretty flat.
Ultimately, I encourage you to raise the issue and take a stand. Resentment—as has been famously said by too many folks for me to give proper attribution—is like taking rat poison and waiting the rat to die.
About the Author
Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.
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