Achieving Recognition at Work


There is an employee where I work who whines when she 2 things going on simultaneously. Although her hours are 8:30 -5:00, she shows up anywhere from 9:30 to nearly 2:00, and spends hours on personal phone calls and playing around. Meanwhile, I consistently come in to work at 8:00 and don't leave until 5:00 or even later, often eating lunch at my desk to get even more work done. But somehow she ended up getting a bonus this year when I did not. I don't get it!

- J. S.

Dear J.S.,

I totally understand your frustration!

Working hard alone does not necessarily get you better pay and recognition. A big part of succeeding within most organizations is also playing the political game. If you work hard but the people who matter don't know you're working hard or don't understand what benefit you're providing, it might go unnoticed.

From the situation you described, I would imagine your co-worker who comes in late is much better at "managing" her managers. Her managers may even think she's doing a great job and that she should be allowed to come in late because she's a "star." Think about it: if you thought you had Michael Jordan on your team, would you let him come in late? Sure! You'd probably also give him a bonus because you wouldn't want to lose him.

Someone who works long hours might just be viewed as a worker bee. And if the important people don't know what benefit you're providing from those long hours of work, they may just think you're inefficient and can't get things done within regular work hours. I know it sounds cruel, but this is how the game works in Corporate America.


1. Don't treat the job like it's your only hope of success in the world. If you treat a job like you're dependent on it and like it's your only chance of success, your bosses will notice and may interpret your earnestness as desperation. If they think you have no other options, they really have no incentive to pay you more money or to give you a bonus. If they think the job you have now is the best you can do, they'll likely take you for granted. You should be generally aware of other job opportunities at all times. I don't mean you need to be aware of specific jobs, but you should have a general idea of what else is available out there.

If you find yourself in a position where there are no other attractive options out there based on your current skills and experience, your #1 priority should be to enhance your skills and/or experience to change that. This may mean taking college classes at night. It might mean volunteering for special projects at work so that you can get experience with a new system or new skill. To access the JobSearchInfo Education and Skills center, visit this web address:

The other benefit to constantly working to improve your skills and your overall marketability is that your employer may suddenly perceive you as more valuable. People tend to find others who are aggressive about going after their career goals attractive and more capable than people who seem to be content with their current station in life.

2. Aim to work on projects that are very important to the success of the company/organization. If you're working on projects that don't really matter to the big brass, you won't get noticed. You might not always have a choice. But if you find yourself in a meeting and projects are being given out, and you could at that point recommend yourself for a project that would have more of an immediate impact on the company's bottom line or other success factor, that project would be preferable. The big brass at your company are more interested in getting to know people who are working on critical projects than people who are working in areas that are not on their radar screen.

3. Look for ways to get recognized by important people. For example, volunteering to give a presentation or working on a special project. If there are no special projects available, consider suggesting one yourself. Ideally you want this to be a project that would involve making a presentation or getting yourself other exposure that higher-ups will notice. It could also be spearheading a company-wide or department-wide initiative to improve quality, sales, etc. Or sharing a technique you learned at a seminar or class that others could benefit from.

4. Determine metrics for measuring your effectiveness. Aim to exceed expectations. Most likely, you will need to talk to your boss to determine what these metrics should be. Just the fact that you initiate a conversation with your boss about this will make you come across as a high-performing and valuable employee. If metrics are established ahead of time, there will be an objective way to measure your performance. You may also be able to get your boss to agree to set your bonus and/or raise based on how well the metrics are achieved.

5. Always keep your options open. One of the most important principles is you never want to get into a position where you're dependent on your job. If you have other options, you will be more confident at work and that confidence will shine through in your interactions with other people. In the scenario J.S. wrote about, his co-worker most likely has other options - or else she wouldn't be coming in late every day. One way to keep your options open is by posting your resume on job sites confidentially. Using the service is one effective way to post your resume without revealing your name or contact information.

About the Author

Scott Brown is the author of the Job Search Handbook ( As editor of the weekly newsletter on job searching, Scott has written many articles on the subject. He wrote the Job Search Handbook to provide job seekers with a complete yet easy to use guide to finding a job effectively.