Is it wrong for me to want credit for what I have accomplished and be recognized that the accomplishment is mine? I’m 24 years old, female, single and a graduate of a state university. I’ve been working with my present company for the past two years, during which I have had three bosses, all of whom are section heads. This last one is really breaking my heart, to say the least. Not only does she not acknowledge the good reports that I do; she is quick to criticize whatever I do and finds fault with my work. It is as though I’m not doing anything good at all for she never says anything positive about what I do. I have never received any pat on the back from her. It’s not that she doesn’t know how to compliment people. She occasionally praises her favorites. I’m so demoralized and demotivated that I want to seek transfer to another section, or else quit my work and resign from my company if no lateral transfer is possible.
There is nothing wrong with wanting a pat on the back and be given recognition, especially from significant others, including your boss. Affirmation, approval, recognition, etc. are emotional needs that are basic to survival. Dr. Virginia Satyr, a well known American psychologist and therapist, writes that every human being needs to satisfy a “daily stroke quota,” i.e., the minimum number of “strokes” we need daily for our psychological growth. These strokes are in the form of praise, smiles of approval, compliments, hugs and other physical and emotional touches from significant others. According to Dr. Satyr, every human being needs 10-15 strokes daily; they serve as the “psychological oxygen” to make as grow and glow.
If these emotional needs are not met, especially in the home, a child looks for them elsewhere. Attention deficit can be a powerful motivator throughout life. In fact, a child or an adult engages in attention-seeking behaviors (we usually refer to these as “KSP” or “Kulang sa pansin” behaviors) just to get attention; negative attention, such as criticism, is better than no attention at all.
When a person does not get their daily stroke quota, it is difficult for them to see and to satisfy these needs in others. This could be the case with your boss. Perhaps she does not get her daily stroke quota which is why she finds it difficult to affirm, approve and give recognition to others. So instead of feeling hurt the way you do, try to understand her from this perspective.
What pains you is your perception that she does pat the back of her favorites and you are not one of them. This may be news to you: among Filipino bosses, those who praise their employees for good performance is more an exception rather than the norm. This could be a cultural trait passed on from generation to generation. Children are not generally praised nor affirmed for fear that they become “swell headed” such as “Baka lumaki and ulo,” or “Huwag mausog!” if baby/child is praised for being beautiful. In our management and leadership seminars we are always told by most participants, who are mostly frontline supervisors and section heads, that their managers rarely affirm and give them recognition.
So that you will not experience unnecessary pain, you need to have some paradigm shifts. The first of these is that doing good work is your responsibility and you are paid to do it. Doing your work the best way you can is your duty. You get appraised for the quantity, quality and timeliness of your work. You get a high rating and a corresponding reward for exceeding standards of performance. Merit ratings or performances bonuses are already forms of recognition. If your boss praises you for what you accomplish, see this as a bonus.
The second paradigm shift is to see your boss as your #1 customer. To satisfy and delight her is the reason why you have a job. The fact that she doesn’t have you repeat your job, and that she submits it or uses it in her report to her own boss, shows that she accepts your work. Give yourself a pat on your back for this.
We can not choose our bosses in our companies. We are given to them and we are there to accomplish the work for them. We have no control over the way they think, feel and act. Instead of waiting for your boss to praise you, ask her, “What do you think of my report, Ma’am?” If she criticizes and finds fault with it, accept her criticism with a “What is it you want me to improve and how do you want me to do it?” Listen to her attentively, then thank her for wanting you to improve. Say, for example, “Thank you, Ma’am, for wanting me to improve my work.”
If she continues with her critical attitude, you can take this option: go to her and tell her something like this: “Ma’am, I am disappointed that you seem not to see anything good or positive in what I do. I wish you would also tell me what it is that I do right.” Then listen to and wait for her response. Then thank her again. Perhaps she can learn from you if you take this positive attitude. Parents learn from their children; teachers from their students; bosses from their subordinates, etc. They become aware of their negative behaviors from the assertiveness or facial expression of those younger or lesser than they.
You must learn to reward yourself for doing an excellent job rather than have expectations of getting recognition from an outside source, such as that coming from your boss. Doing an excellent report or presentation should give you a feeling of achievement. Give yourself a pat on a back. Feeling proud of yourself for doing an excellent report, feeling of accomplishment and pride are intrinsic rewards that make you self-motivated to continue the good work you are doing. Add to this a spiritual dimension: offer your work, the efforts you exert, the outputs of your work, and the lack of recognition from your boss, to God, who, after all, knows what you have done and what you do.