When Great is Too Good

Some time ago Joanne’s computer started crashing frequently and running slowly.  When she took off for a visit to see family in British Columbia, I took the opportunity to check it over and discovered that her hard drive was failing.

Since the drive was a mess, I didn’t want to just clone it.  Instead I carefully backed up all of her files and then, over the course of several days, performed a fresh install of Windows and all of her software onto the new drive – a laborious task involving a never-ending cycle of installs and reboots.

I took care to put everything back exactly as it was before, right down to the desktop picture and location of the icons.  And that was my mistake…  After my hours of dedicated, painstaking work, Joanne came home and carried on using the computer as before – sans the crashes.  I looked on proudly, awaiting my kudos but none were forthcoming.  When I [slightly peevishly] pointed out that I had completely replaced the hard drive, Joanne merely replied, “Oh, thank you.” and that was it.

WHAT???  No adoring hugs and kisses, no offers to cook my favorite meal, and no mention of slipping into “something more comfortable“.  Clearly the amount of effort that went into making the whole thing seamless was not coming through.

At home I can take the fact that Joanne felt zero pain as a sign that I did a good job.  But what about in the work environment?

When the end of year when bonuses are being handed out, don’t you want people to remember something of your valuable contributions?

Telling people about your hard work and technical prowess generally isn’t appreciated, so you need to find more subtle ways to get credit.  Ironically, that sometimes means doing less than a perfect job.

I’ll give you an example.  On a business trip, I stayed in a hotel where they had treated the mirror with something that stopped it from fogging.  But they didn’t treat the whole mirror, just a large square in the middle, and I really appreciated having that square of visibility.  I was impressed that they had gone to the extra effort.  But would I have even noticed if the mirrors were completely fog free?  Unlikely.

If you are adding new functionality, then getting noticed is easy.  But if you are performing maintenance type activities, or are involved in something that aids efficiency, then you need to find other ways to be appreciated. That might mean making subtle, but obvious, changes just so that people know that things are from  “the new system“.

Occasionally the only option is to tell someone about the great work you did.  If you have to ‘toot your own horn’, then see if you can find a way to weave that narrative into the day-to-day work.  Tools that automatically notify people when jobs are complete are great for this (Jira would be a good example) – after all, it wasn’t you that notified people.

The sad fact is that excellent work often goes unnoticed simply by virtue of it looking easy.

Finding ways to get credit for what you do is tricky but, whatever you do, please try to be subtle – no-one likes a braggart.  If you do it right then you’re hard work will be noticed and, who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself sitting down to your favorite, home-cooked meal.

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1 Comment

Filed under Career, Life - or something like it

One response to “When Great is Too Good

  1. Matt C

    Oh so very true, thanks for pointing out some subtle ways to be noticed for the efforts, I’ll use them at home too.

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