By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Media Services
Q. No one seems to be noticing all the good work I have done. I am very good at my job, tackle the hard projects, and even help out when my coworkers are swamped. Do I just work for an unusually ungrateful organization?
A. No, unless you make coworkers aware of what you do and require a certain level of appreciation, you almost certainly will not get it.
Gratitude is a hallmark of high mental health. People who are emotionally well are spontaneously and keenly aware of gratitude pretty much 24 hours a day. They appreciate the extra work you do, the competency with which you do it, and even the fact you just made coffee.
On the other end of the mental health spectrum are people who wouldn't appreciate it if you just saved their life and their job. In fact, these people might even get mad at you for not doing more.
If you want an instant barometer of how emotionally well your coworkers are, simply pay attention to their capacity for appreciation. You'll have a better assessment of their general mental health than most sophisticated psychological instruments.
If you believe that just doing good work will result in workplace appreciation, you'll be sorely disappointed. If gratitude is important to you, you will have to make what you are doing obvious to all.
For instance, if you are giving your customers a break on fees, tell them and tell them more than once. If you are staying late and missing your child's soccer game, tell your coworker. If you had to rearrange your family's vacation schedule, make sure your boss is crystal clear about the inconvenience.
Going the extra mile once in awhile (and making sure people realize this is a blue-moon event) will get you gratitude. Being silent and long-suffering will just get you resentment.
People simply are too busy at your workplace to slow down long enough to consider that you are doing them a favor. Most folks easily will take what you do for granted unless you are articulate and force them to be aware that you going out of your way for them.
Most of us really don't like feeling dependent, and when you help others at work, you bring up their dependency. You may be shocked to find others may even have amnesia about all the times you helped them, but this is pretty normal. Being aware of being helped makes people feel weak.
Of course, your problem isn't helping other people avoid their issues with vulnerability. Your problem is getting a well deserved "thank you." The only way you'll consistently receive appreciation is to make people around you conscious of exactly what you have done for them.
You can always be gracious about the favors you do. Letting your coworker, boss or customer know you think highly of them, and thus you are doing a favor, is effective. They will get to feel special and you will get to feel appreciation!
The last word(s)
Q. People in my workplace seem increasingly irritable. Is it something I'm doing?
A. Probably not. The most effective theory for other people's behavior is that it is never about you. You'll see a lot more about your workplace if you don't take everything personally.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). Contact her at www.interpersonaledge.com
or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.
This was printed in the August 11, 2013 - August 24, 2013 Edition