If you’re a subscriber of the Pareto principle, you may perceive yourself to be a part of 20% of the workforce, who do 80% of the work at your workplace. The realization that you’re the hardest worker on your team is a bittersweet one. It is a feeling which gives birth to short lived pride, as you inevitably realize that the best workers tend to also do the most work. The result of that realization is the understanding that you’re perhaps being overworked, while not being compensated in proportion to that work.
As you make your way through feelings of pride, then anger and disappointment, you’ll begin thinking about what you can do to be acknowledged as the worker that you are. Should you speak to your manager and tell her about your feeling of being underappreciated? Should you begin to emulate the not so good workers on your team? Having our work be taken for granted is a depressing feeling. Though you may pride yourself on being the best worker on your team, that pride gets tainted by the realization that people go home with the same amount of compensation as you do at the end of the day. The resume of your colleagues will contain the same position that yours will down the line, thereby their chances of advancing in their careers will also be similar to yours. Is it worth being a part of the 20% who do 80% of the work if you’re not appreciated for it? This article will propose a methodology of establishing gratitude for your acts of going above and beyond.
Establish a Reputation, Not an Expectation
In order for your work to be perceived to be of high quality, you should first establish yourself as a high quality worker. This step is a rather obvious one, but ensure that your own perception of your work ethic matches the perception of your managers and colleagues. Establish yourself as an authority on the team you’re on, take pride in being the best worker. Come in early, stay late, under promise, and over deliver. Do everything you can in establishing your reputation as a solid, reliable worker.
The length of time you’ll need in order to establish a sparkling reputation will vary. It’ll become evident when your reputation of being a solid worker is established. People will come to you for solutions, you’ll see your level of responsibility rise, and you’ll begin being looked to when things are hard for the rest. The act of being taken for granted is communicated in implicit ways. A telltale sign is the consistent pattern of others coming to you when things go wrong, even if they share the same work responsibilities as you do.
Being expected to do extra work as part of your average workload is what you should try to avoid. That expectation grows the longer you keep up the sublime reputation of being a person who goes above and beyond. This advice is centered on making the people around you get accustomed to your level of output first, but discouraging them from growing to expect it. As soon as your work ethic begins being taken for granted (expected), it comes time to communicate the fact that it shouldn’t be.
Tone It Down a Bit, for Just a Little Bit
Disclaimer: This article is not advising you to become a bad worker. This point can’t be stressed enough.
As you begin to realize that your work ethic is being taken for granted, and maybe even exploited, it’ll be time to shake things up a bit. The goal in this step of the process is to make the people around you realize how lucky they were in being on the receiving end of your act of going above and beyond. The way to do this effectively it seems, is to revert to being a normal, average, good worker for a specified period of time. Rather than continuing your habits of doing more than is asked, have a stretch of time in which you tone things down a bit.
Don’t incriminate yourself by doing less work than required. The key here, is to merge into the group of average workers (80%) for just a little bit. Doing so will leave a void in the spot where you used perform at a high level, all while you were being taken for granted.
Start coming in right on time, rather than earlier than everyone else. Leave to go home when everybody else does, and do the same amount of work that the people around you are used to doing. The line is thin here, so tread carefully and be subtle. A good way to think about this step is to allow others the chance of going above and beyond by leaving a void where you used to be. It’ll be quickly evident that not many others are willing to voluntarily step up to being the hardest worker on the team you’re on.
Take a sick day when you’re actually sick, rather than pushing through a sore throat and a headache at the office. Book a vacation for the first time in years, to the surprise of those around you, and begin actually going on your lunch break rather than working through it.
Return to Going Above and Beyond
Once your absence from being a worker who goes the extra mile is felt by those around you (appropriate increase in their own workload), it will then be time to come back to the rescue. As you return to your old ways of being a reliable and hard worker, you’ll be operating with the evidence of what happens when you merge into the average group of workers. The people around you will have firsthand experience in missing your diligent output, and will be more welcoming to you being a hard worker than they were before.
Once they’ve felt an increase in workload from the effect of you toning things down a bit, they will begin doing whatever they can to not feel that increase in workload again. They’ll thank you for coming in early, and staying in late. They might cover lunch and bring you food when you stay in to work during your break, and will be likelier to give you the credit you deserve in doing a larger part of the work.
The principle at play here is simple and can be explained by the classic axiom: “We don’t know what we have until it’s gone.” Except in this instance, you won’t be gone. The act of ‘it’ not being gone entices others to cherish ‘it’ while it’s here. The point, is to remind people what it feels like for ‘it’ to very well be gone but not incriminate yourself in the process. Ensure that your reputation is in fact what you think it is first, and don’t take away too much in an effort to make them miss what you used to give. Subtlety is key.