Tipping point. Now that I know what it’s called, let’s talk about self abnegation (lack of consideration for oneself or one’s own interest; self–denial) in the workplace. As a manager, I have spent close to 30 years trying to accommodate everyone in the most expedient fashion possible. This means, coming in early, staying late, working through lunch, and constantly rearranging priorities and tasks at hand to meet the urgencies of each individual with an issue. I have, in fact, taken great pride in doing this, not realizing the depth of damage I do to myself, and – believe it or not – my esteem. When your personality is self abnegation and this is how you present yourself, it is my experience that less and less do people see your sacrifice and more and more there is possibility for expectation without appreciation.
In a recent farewell to a doctor leaving our practice, there was much conversation in having a lunch or breakfast in his honor. It was settled that we would have a breakfast and bagels and accompanying items were being brought in. I decided to get balloons, a Good Luck sign and decorations, and I wanted a special card. When it comes to my office, I try to make personalized cards for birthdays, and celebrations for everyone. This situation was not different in that I wanted something special, but the difference was I didn’t feel as if I knew enough personally about this man to make it truly special. What I did know is that he smart, kind, and fiercely strong minded. I know that his background and culture plays a big part in who he is as a physician, a father and a person. I chose a famous painting of 8 Galloping Horses and put a synopsis of their meaning according to Chinese culture on the back. Everyone signed the card and I felt quite satisfied that I had chosen well.
It was the response I got from the doctor that has stuck with me. His genuine appreciation and enthusiasm in telling me what this card meant to him, telling me the significance of what his Chinese name means when translated (Success) and how perfect this card was, has meant everything to me. But, it has made me think. Perhaps it is the rarity of these little acknowledgements that has begun to take its toll. I cannot rely on acknowledgement to do my job well. And, the reality is that I cannot help who I am and I will likely always sacrifice myself in ways that go unseen, but who sees the effect it has on me? I am not in a position to allow my frustration or disappointment show, and therefore I muster a smile while my heart aches a little for a sincere thank you or an appreciative remark. But when a small effort gets noticed, I cannot deny it is exhilerating.
I am not saying that I am not appreciated. I know that I am. We are all quite busy. I know I can fail to properly acknowledge people around me, and am more conscious of this than ever. I love my job and want the people who work with me to love theirs as well. I feel we can all do more. The boost to personal morale is immeasurable when you feel noticed… acknowledged. I believe that when we show our appreciation to others, there is that ‘pay it forward’ moment that gives people that tiny push to show gratitude, as well.
I think the lesson here is that saying thank you, meaning it, taking that extra moment to acknowledge someone’s efforts can make the difference between a hard day, and a hard day – but immensely worthwhile.