The problem: I work on a small creative team. Infrequently, but genuinely, the boss comes by and compliments us on the creativity of recent work or a high-profile project. One team member contributes very little, but hops in to speak for the team with comments such as, “It did look great!” and, “You are welcome!” It is hard to get a word in without seeming needy for recognition. Do I say something to this person? Do I tell the boss who actually did the work? Or, do I rest my head on my pillow knowing I did a nice job?

Low road: Jump in with, “Just think how much greater it would look if you actually did what was assigned to you!”

High road: A boss who delivers infrequent but genuine appreciation is a savvy and skilled boss, one who understands that constantly cheery feedback becomes like background noise; workers stop hearing it. Conversely, no positive feedback — ever — creates unhappy employees who will quit at the earliest opportunity. I have a hunch your co-worker knows he or she is falling short, which is the reason for such ebullient, and overcompensating, reactions to praise.

You could express frustration to your boss, but that might compromise your own good standing. Bosses don’t like complainers.

Still, it’s normal and healthy to want to be appreciated. Going forward, make sure to create individual expectations and deadlines for each player, which makes it harder to silently drop balls. And keep a folder of your finest work, including letters from happy clients.

At year’s end, advocate for yourself. Have coffee with your boss, review your proudest moments and work together to create even grander goals for the new year.


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