Once upon a time, I had a job that I loved. I was fully engaged. Talk about discretionary effort – I invested all of my effort! I was positive and happy. I had many “best friends” at work. I knew that my role contributed to the bigger picture and that every day I was making an impact. I loved it.
Then things changed. It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly. My reporting relationship changed, and left me with a dotted line to my former boss (let’s call him Robert), and direct reporting to another (let’s call her Karen). Robert generally only called me into his office to complain about other people or to give me a new assignment (which often was counter to what Karen and I had discussed). Karen, while nice and intelligent, didn’t inspire me or seem to be someone from whom I could learn what I needed at the time.
When I stepped in to do things that were very far removed from my HR and Training role because I saw they needed to be done, nobody noticed. I was traveling a lot – I think the actual number was 107 workshops in one year, with at least half of them in other parts of the country. I lost touch with friends, missed the fun events our company put on, and started to feel disconnected.
I was feeling like a cog in a wheel, unappreciated, overworked, and often like a second class citizen. The job I loved had become just a job.
As a highly engaged and high performing employee, having “just a job” didn’t work for me, so I started to look for work elsewhere. I quickly found another job.
When I gave my notice, Robert asked whether I’d reconsider. He told me he felt like
he was losing his right hand. He had tears in my eyes, which I’d never seen before.
One night, just before my last day, my sister and I went out for dinner. When we arrived at the restaurant, I found that this was actually a surprise “leaving party” for me. Dozens of my colleagues had come together to say goodbye. It was amazing and heartwarming to have this time to reminisce over the past years of work together. There were gifts, and they created a beautiful scrapbook of pictures and memories form the past years together. It is still one of my most treasured possessions.
As I spoke with each of my colleagues, they told me over and over “It was all Robert – he planned the entire thing.” While I was extremely grateful and happy to know that he cared this much, I was saddened to think I never knew he appreciated me until I left.
I decided that night that I would never throw a party for people on my team who left.
Instead, I celebrate their joining me with small gifts, lunch, and meaningful discussions. Then I strive to show my appreciation while they work with me.
Sometimes I get a reminder that I haven’t done well enough in that area. This week, I received that reminder loud and clear as my fabulous “Business Ninja” has decided to leave me. While her “reason for leaving” is to pursue her true passion and use her amazing talent in her own business, I couldn’t help but reflect on the fact that I’ve been doing a poor job letting her know how much I appreciate her work in the moment. Because we work virtually, we only generally speak once a week, and I was missing opportunities to thank her as things happened.
I won’t be throwing “leaving party”, but I will be better at making sure I follow my own advice while I work with my next “Ninja” or other team members.
How do you make sure people know they are genuinely appreciated while they work with you?