Maybe you are a high achiever, the type of person that receives ample recognition from your company for your performance. You have received numerous promotions, are often singled out at professional gatherings, and have more plaques and certificates than your wall can display.
Then again, maybe you are not that person. You work hard, striving to do your best, but recognition – if and when you receive it – is rare. Most of us fit into this second category. While the “superstars,” high performers and top executives receive the acclaim, many others toil in virtual obscurity. Perhaps on occasion we even lapse into a “pity party,” wondering what difference our work makes or whether anyone cares about what we do. At such times, remember one thing: There is no shame in being an unsung hero, one that fails to get noticed. In fact, “unsung heroes” often keep things running smoothly.
Have you ever injured one of your joints – twisted a knee, or sprained a thumb? I have done both. Prior to the injuries, I never thought about my left knee or my right thumb. But when pain in the knee felt like a long needle was sticking in it, or when I attempted the simple act of turning a doorknob with my right hand, I became acutely aware of both. Healthy, functional joints are not supposed to be noticed.
Or consider an orchestra. When being played harmoniously, individual instruments do not stand out unless their musicians have been assigned solos. In the midst of a symphony, if you notice a violin or flute when it is not supposed to stand out, you know something is wrong.
This is one reason many people in the workplace do not receive attention very often. They do their jobs without calling attention to themselves by failure to contribute their part to the overall effort. As one former boss once told me, “If you do not hear from me, assume everything is fine.” That might not seem assuring to those needing occasional encouragement, but that is reality in today’s business and professional world. As the adage goes, squeaking wheels are the ones that get the grease.
So how do we react when we feel underappreciated or undervalued? The Bible offers some suggestions:
Remember we are part of a greater unit. Even when we are not being singled out for exemplary performance, we can be assured we are important to the overall effort. A human heart cannot function without the lungs or brain, and vice versa. “The body is a unit…. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be…. As it is, there are many parts, but one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-20).
Recognize our need for each other. Just as the overall enterprise needs our contributions, we benefit from and should appreciate the contributions of others. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work…. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
Realize your work matters to God. To use the orchestra analogy again, sometimes we must accept playing solely for the Conductor, an audience of one – God. But that is all we need. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord…you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. Which of the two do you identify with most readily: the high performer that receives substantial recognition and rewards, or the individual that labors steadily and effectively without getting much attention or commendation? Explain your answer.
2. Do you ever find yourself in a situation when you believe you have done a good job but receive no expression of gratitude, or perhaps no acknowledgement at all? If so, how do you feel or even react at such times?
3. What do you think of the analogies of healthy, functioning joints that we never pay attention to, or musical instruments that when played harmoniously do not stand out in an orchestral performance, to your role in the workplace? Do these comparisons encourage you? Why or why not?
4. How do you respond to the biblical promise that your work is recognized and valued by God? If you truly believe that, what difference should it make in how you approach your everyday job responsibilities?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 27:17; Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 12:21-31; Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 3:17