Make sure each one of your employees feels recognized

Alex Bochannek

Engineering Manager, Site Reliability Engineering at Google



"Mike, a senior engineer on my team, was an introverted person. He did his job very well, respected deadlines, and his presence in the team was a real asset. However, the company we worked at had an imbalance in focusing on the latest crisis rather than on continuous improvements. Mike didn't want to become a hero, he simply wanted recognition for the work he was doing every day. I noticed that his attitude became progressively more cynical. For example, his tone became confrontational in chatty conversations. By observing his attitude, his work and his interactions with others, I came to understand that he was frustrated because his contributions were being ignored."

Actions taken

"As his manager, my big challenge was to find out how to make Mike feel valued and rewarded, as he felt that no one cared about what he was doing. I had a very open discussion with him, and told him that he couldn't continue to show his frustration this way because it was not going to have the expected effect. I told him that people would see his work in a negative light because of this, instead of thanking him for his work. I also reassured him that his contributions were important to me, the team, and the company. I then worked with my manager on the challenge of giving more recognition to individuals working on more operational tasks, because their work is fundamental in preventing a crisis. Finally, I made sure to emphasize the importance of Mike's work to the team. He now feels better and stopped being confrontational with his colleagues."

Lessons learned

"This story illustrates a failure on my part, as I hadn't made it clear that his job was crucial. Public recognition is very powerful and I should have counterbalanced the tendency of the company to reward the hero. I also realized that my company's culture needed to be more balanced. Either you realize that consistent, reliable contributors are foundational to the business and you recognize their contributions, or you run the risk of not attracting these kinds of contributors anymore and instead perpetuate an unsustainable hero culture."

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Alex Bochannek

Engineering Manager, Site Reliability Engineering at Google

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill DevelopmentIndividual Contributor Roles

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