There have been days (quite a few of them, actually) where I didn't feel appreciated at work. While my work has been called out in positive ways a few times, most of the time I feel like my good work goes unnoticed. With a recent project, I've seen my work be more public and more noticable, and I've gotten some good feedback that has helped me feel appreciated. But this project has also made me wonder whether positive feedback is enough to truly make me feel like I am a valued member of the team. Is just hearing that my work is valued enough to really make me feel appreciated? Or would a more tangible sign of appreciation (for example, a gift card, which is something I received at a previous job) make me feel more like all of my work is valued, not just my work on this project?
A few weeks ago, my manager reached out to ask me something directly related to this question. Our company has a budget for managers to send gifts to their direct reports, and my manager wanted to know what kind of treat I would like. She wanted to recognize both my hard work on a recent project and my upcoming 1-year anniversary at the company (!!). When she first asked me this question, I honestly didn't know how to respond. What do I want? When I think about the things that make me feel appreciated, I couldn't think of a tangible gift that fit what I was picturing in my head (really what I wanted was a Slack emoji ... and thankfully I did eventually get that).
My manager offered some suggestions involving food and alcohol, but that wasn't something I'm comfortable with because of dietary constraints. I thought about asking for something I needed or something that I was considering buying for myself, but I didn't really want something that was just going to be useful for a short period of time or something that was just filling a need. I wanted something that was lasting and that would be a constant reminder of where it came from and why I have it.
After some thought, I floated the idea of something that would bring a little personality to my desk (not that there's room for personality on my tiny desk, but that's a different story). One of the things that I've struggled with in my work from home setup is the blandness of my space, and I thought it would be cool to get a gift that would help bring a little personality and a little energy to my space. My manager floated the idea of a plant (which is complicated for me because while I do like plants and have been wanting to get one to liven up my space, I'm also very bad at taking care of things), but eventually said that she was deciding between two things. All that was left was waiting to see what she decided.
My manager told me when to expect the package, and when I got a package notification from my building, I knew my gift had arrived. I opened the package to discover two notebooks. But not just any notebooks. Moleskine limited edition Harry Potter notebooks. I'm a huge fan of all things Harry Potter, and I had actually seen these notebooks before and thought they looked cool, but didn't really wanted to spend the money on them. The fact that my manager got me something that I wanted and that had meaning to me, but that I wouldn't have bought for myself.
When I thanked my manager for the gift, she mentioned that she had chosen this gift because of my love of writing. My manager does try to keep up with reading my blogs, and she understands that writing is something I enjoy both based on the blogs and on conversations we've had about projects I'd like to take on, and the fact that she took that into consideration when picking out the gift made it even more special. I'm not sure what I'll end up using these notebooks for, but whatever I do, when I see them, it will be a reminder that I am seen at work, I do belong, and my contributions are valued.
There are many ways for companies and managers to show appreciation for their employees at work, some more lasting than others. I'm glad that my company offers managers an opportunity to show appreciation to their reports in a concrete way, and I'm honored that my manager decided to take advantage of that opportunity. There are days when I feel like I don't belong at work and my contributions are not valued, but thanks to my manger I now have a concrete reminder that I am valued, my work is appreciated, and my team is happy to have me, and I know that having that reminder sitting on my desk will help me get through the times when I feel like I may not belong.