…So this morning I was meandering through my favorite HR haunts for interesting articles when I came across this piece from Laurie Ruettimann. It examines our at times unrealistic expectations about reward, offering the following nugget:

We don’t work hard and make good choices for thank you letters and praise. We work hard and make good choices for a paycheck.

When I first read the above quote I couldn’t figure out exactly why it resonated with me, because I don’t necessarily agree with it – at least not in its entirety. A paycheck is certainly one of the reasons that I work hard and (generally) make good choices, but is certainly not the only reason. Among other reasons, I also do these things because they align with my values and give me a sense of personal pride.

…So what is it about the quote?

Stepping back, I think it’s because I admire the ethos behind working for yourself and not the approval of others. Be it working for money, personal passion, or something entirely more altruistic – the idea that one’s efforts and sense of self are separate from validation received (or not received) from others is a central life theme of mine. I have an enormous amount of respect for it.

…We all want to feel appreciated… but I think there’s a difference between wanting appreciation and seeking or – even worse – needing it to be engaged in whatever endeavor you’re pursuing.

I think this is important because – at some point in our careers – most of us will feel a little undervalued relative to what we bring to the table. This may come in the form of a bad boss, a non-glamorous role, or in the form of some otherwise unrecognized efforts. When this happens, I think it’s important to continue performing at a high level even when we don’t feel like it. The difference in approach here is the long-term developmental difference between becoming a technically competent professional and world class expert. This is because people that expect ‘thank-yous’ to work hard are slowing down when their peers with the opposite outlook are still hitting their stride. And over time, this difference in approach can have a dramatic impact on the trajectory of one’s career.

Ergo, the next time you’re feeling down or under-appreciated please remember this:

…Or do I have this wrong? As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.