Saturday, March 10, 2012

It makes a difference.

Some weeks back, I helped out at a campus recruitment event. I do this every year; it counts for service and I kind of enjoy doing it. I help out with the second half of the event. This year, the colleague of mine who does the first half got bronchitis and lost her voice, so I took over the first half of the event as well.

Yesterday I got the thank-you letter they send out (a form letter that we can then stick in our post-tenure review files). However, the person in charge of the event attached a separate handwritten note thanking me for stepping in at the last minute (and also coming EXTRA early and hauling a lot of stuff).

And you know? It makes a difference. I know we should not expect to be thanked for doing things like that but it makes a difference. I'm far more likely to volunteer for stuff again if I feel like people notice what I'm doing and appreciate it.

Sadly, this isn't always the case with volunteer work. I've worked in capacities where all I heard were complaints. And yeah, okay, if someone is actually doing something wrong, they need to be corrected on it. But an ongoing stream of petty, "Why aren't you doing it exactly the way I want it?" comments wears a person down and saps their good will.

In my field - in the sciences - praise and even thanks for stuff you've done are rare. (It seems to me that in the art-related fields, it's more common). Sadly, it's gotten to the point where if someone praises something I've done too heartily, I'm immediately suspicious: what are they going to ask me to do? What kind of agonizing task do they have lined up for me that they are buttering me up to do?

Still, it's nice to get that little handwritten note that says, in effect: Hey, I saw that you took on more work than you were planning and more than was expected of you initially. Thank you for being willing to do that.

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