Why you’re not getting the recognition you deserve…and what to do about it

The reason you’re reading this probably means you were intrigued by the title – and you thought “Yep, actually. That’s me. I’m not getting the recognition I deserve”.

Unfortunately, you’re not alone. I have PA and Executive Support clients across the world who have shared these exact same feelings with me. There are PAs worldwide who feel undervalued in their organisations and, very often, when they’ve reached the point of booking me as a coach their motivation levels have already been impacted and they’re experiencing “tummy-wobble-dreads” and a frown on a Sunday night boding the imminent Monday morning’s return to the office. Sound familiar?

So, this article is your little ray of sunshine – your little bottle of metaphoric “Pepto-bismol” to get rid of those “tummy-wobble-dreads” as I share with you what you can do about this recognition thing.

Feeling warm and fuzzy…..

Recognition is a good thing, right? We all want that pat on the back, that gold star, that warm, fuzzy “I feel valued” feeling which boosts our morale and motivation. Admittedly, some of us crave this more than others (keep reading to find out if you’re internally or externally referenced). In an ideal world we want our organisations to embrace the whole praise and recognition thing with open arms. But, hang on a minute. Let’s be realistic. We don’t live in an “ideal world” and there are companies with no formal recognition strategy in place. There are managers who don’t understand or value the importance of praise and recognition for their staff members and whose referencing is different to our own.

And, if we have to ask for this recognition….if we have to put forward a “bid” for it, does that not take away the sincerity of any recognition that we subsequently receive and spoil the process? Are we going to be seen as the “moaning Myrtle” or “whining child” of our offices if we do have that conversation with our manager? Hold that thought. It’s time to consider this “referencing” thing so we can have a new appreciation and understanding of an individual’s makeup – this could be a “light bulb” moment for you as you discover the dynamics of your own and your manager’s referencing preference.

The dynamics – an internally & externally referenced partnership

Think about where you get your motivation from.

If you are internally referenced you will get your motivation from within (internally). You set your own standards of achievement. You know that you’ve done a good job (or not) and don’t need the verification or otherwise of those around you to tell you so. Yes, you will still enjoy receiving praise and recognition but it’s not going to dampen your motivation if you don’t get it. And a trait of your internal referencing is that you may set yourself exacting standards and put pressure on yourself to achieve perfection in your eyes (in which case – be kind to yourself my fellow internal referencers!).

As an externally referenced individual, you will get your motivation from the outside world – from facts, figures, information and those around you (externally). You need to check in to get verification that you’ve done a good job (or not) and you thrive on praise and recognition. At an extreme, if you don’t receive this external motivation it could mean deprivation for you.

Now let’s think about the dynamics of an internally referenced Executive and an externally referenced PA.

With little understanding or knowledge of these behavioural “makeups”,your internally referenced Executive may overlook and not understand the importance of praise and recognition to you, the externally referenced PA. Their view will be

“surely if you’ve done a good job, you just know you have!”

(because that’s what works for them).

As an externally referenced PA with little understanding or knowledge of these behavioural “makeups”, you may not have gone out of your way to share that this is how you operate. You may never have voiced your need for praise and recognition. And the resulting decline in your motivation means the Sunday night tummy-wobble-dreads have kicked in big time.

So dispel all thoughts of being a “moaning Myrtle” and instead consider it as being proactive when you arrange an open conversation with your Executive to discuss this. Your conversation may go something along the lines of :

“I think we’re very different in how we get our motivation. I read this really interesting article about being internally or externally referenced. As an internally referenced person you know when you’ve done a good job don’t you? You don’t need me or anyone else to verify it for you. You don’t need lots of external “noise” to keep you motivated. I’m different because I’m “externally referenced” and in order for me to keep my enthusiasm going I need to hear when I’ve done a good job – or when I could improve. I need that “noise” from the external world – from you – to motivate me and I’d really appreciate it if we could work together on this”

Check in with your Executive regularly and share your accomplishments with him/her on a regular basis rather than saving everything up for your annual review. One of the criteria for high quality feedback (giving and receiving) is that it is timely. There is more impact in chatting over something that is fresh in your minds now than a year down the line.

Be The Change You Wish to See (just one of Gandhi’s inspirational mantras)

Give sincere praise and recognition to your work colleagues (particularly when there is credit due to others involved in group projects). This is a catalyst for encouraging others to do the same and it will foster a positive working culture and environment as you lead by example. Human nature is such that when you recognise someone, they are likely to reciprocally recognise you in the future.

And the Award goes to…….

There are many PA Awards that you can get put yourself forward for. There’s a wealth of knowledge on the internet although sadly no single resource I am aware of that lists these in their entirety. Current and former PA Awards winners are vocal in sharing how beneficial a formal recognition has been to them personally and professional. It can be great exposure for your organisations too in sharing their brand and highlighting that they truly value their employees.

“Jump Ship”

Because we don’t live in this “ideal world” where praise and recognition feature big time on every organisation’s values and engagement strategy, you do have a choice here.

Be realistic – how many hours do you spend in your workplace a day? A week? A month? A year? It’s a big chunk of your life right? So, whilst we will all face challenges and have the inevitable “bad day” at work, we need to feel valued. You absolutely deserve to work in an organisation which embraces recognition. If your organisation doesn’t match your own values where praise and recognition is concerned, maybe it is time to move on.

And to ensure your next employer fits with your values, research, research, research what you can about a potential new employer. What can you find out about their formal recognition strategies and processes? Who do you know that has first-hand knowledge of working there? How could you find out from a current or former employee what it’s really like to be a PA or Executive Support Professional there? Draw on the amazing PA community for advice and input.

And when it gets to interview stage, have ready a list of questions to ask about the organisation’s recognition strategies and processes.

  • What training, mentoring and coaching is going to be offered to you in your new role?
  • Do they have an “employee” of the month scheme (or similar?)?
  • What else would it be useful for you to find out around praise and recognition?


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