Friday, March 9, 2012

Thank You for Thanking Me

Who or what do you think they're bowing to? A painting of Jesus, a preacher, a crucifix? Any of those answers is completely normal. What if they were just bowing to a normal person? For me, that would change a lot. Well that's what I feel like I am a part of with my job, and this is what a lot of people are asking for.

As with a lot of my pictures, this is an exaggeration. The people in my organization where I work do not expect people to literally bow down at their feet and praise. No, that would be ridiculous. Especially because this is our job, to help others, so when we do our job we shouldn't expect to be praised or even thanked, right? In fact, we're getting paid to do what we do, so really there shouldn't be much acknowledgment at all, or at least not an expectation of it.

Yet as my tenure slowly grows, the vibe I get from this place is not at all what I would expect from somewhere with an intent to help, to make a difference. Ideally, I think we should all should just continue helping because it's what we love to do, and if it's not, then you shouldn't be a part of the job. 

(I can't go into to much detail, for risk of offending someone who may be involved with this)

But a dentist doesn't wish to be praised after pulling a wisdom tooth does he? A truck driver doesn't get praised for making a timely delivery. A police officer definitely doesn't get praised after writing a parking  ticket. And it's all because this is their JOB. Way to go, you did what you were supposed to. I stopped getting congratulated for that when I became a teenager. So why do the people in my job constantly need to be reminded at what they do is so wonderful?

Look, I know that my job is more admirable on the surface level than most. "We dedicate our lives to helping others as opposed to just helping ourselves." We help the youth of the area get better opportunities then they might have without our help. That's fantastic in itself, but you know what equals it out? The fact that we get a paycheck. And you know what would happen to those that stopped helping the youth of the area get better opportunities? They'd stop getting that paycheck. It's a regular job... Duh.

But every time I meet with the other employees of my organization, we take time to go over anecdotes from our work that are "exceptional." I think the idea on the surface is to inspire the other employees to try to do something similar, to draw from that story and help another student. But it doesn't seem like that. Whenever the story is finished, you hear approving comments that seem to say things like "wow, it's amazing what we can do here," or "man, if it weren't for us, that kid wouldn't be anywhere." The anecdote, which should be a celebration of the accomplishments of the student revolve into compliments to ourselves. And I will say it again. It's our JOOOOOBBBBBB...

When all of those are shared by individuals, there is usually a wrap up from a higher-up in the company that nearly always is a reminder of how amazing it is the things we do. There are comments about how wonderful the work we do is, how much of a difference we make, how selfless we all are... Blah blah blah... 

I don't mean to tear apart what we do. I will admit that it is true that a lot of the things students accomplish in this area likely wouldn't have happened without being directed by someone in our program. But again, we get paid to guide them, so why are we so special? We aren't.

The attitude taken in this job needs to be the same attitude taken with any job. This is what I get paid to do, so that's what I am going to do. Sure, it's nice to be complimented from time to time, to be recognized for a significant accomplishment, but it seems that someone has to get praised every time a student does something right. It's sick, and it's worse than being praised in any other job, and here is why.

Our goal and our mission is to help others. Let's ignore the fact that we get paid for now and just keep in mind what it is that we do. We help others. If you get into this job to do that, then you should be happy enough when a kid gets a 3.0 GPA for the first time or gets into a 4-year college. You helped someone else. That was wonderful, it really is, but that's all the further it needs to go. If you get a compliment or a thanks from the student, that's a bonus. But it seems that a lot of the people in my organization feel slighted when someone doesn't tell them they made a difference. Well, then maybe you're not in for the cause as much as you thought you were because making the difference is all that matters, not being recognized for it.

This one reads a lot more like a rant that previous ones, and it pretty much is (it's also much angrier than the others), but I still do have a message. For those of you that are ever in the position to help others, or want to go into a service like this, or want to join a volunteer organization, go in without expectations of being recognized. I say this because if your goal is to help others and then you want to be congratulated for it, then you weren't being as selfless as you thought. The "helping others" part gets tainted because you were also seeking to help yourself in some way. It may get frustrating as time passes and you don't get many thanks or congratulations, but I can tell you what makes that all easier. Whenever you get used to not being recognized, whenever you lose that expectation entirely, someone will thank you for making a difference, a genuine appreciation for your work, and it will floor you. Being thanked for something you didn't realize you did is so much more powerful than waiting for one and getting it.

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