I got an e-mail this morning when I came in. It was to me and five of the other task leads on my big industry project. We were recognized this evening for this project and its associated successes. Namely the $5 million in 5 years milestone, which is nearly unheard of when working with private industry. Anyways, the e-mail notified us that “individual performance awards would not be distributed at the celebration in an effort not to detract from the awards ceremony or to highlight any one contributor over another”.
Awhile back, before I had kids, I remember hearing rumors that some schools quit giving letter grades to discourage competition among the kids and disappointment among those who didn’t score the highest. Similarly and more recently I saw that a principal in a particular region had opted not to have the honor roll printed in the newspaper because those who didn't make it would feel bad. The idea I suppose is to put the kids more on an even keel and thus minimize any hurt feelings. Having your feelings hurt as a kid sucks, no doubt about it. But isn’t it inevitable? Instead, mediocrity is the name of the game. When I was a kid I was always at the top of my class. I loved being done first, I loved competing with others (I rocked at “Round the World”) and I loved being recognized for achievements. I wasn’t good at everything, I sucked at track and didn’t care for track and field day where I invariably would let down my relay team and leave with a handful of 5th place ribbons. This was my humbling among my peers.
I ran my first foot race as an adult when I lived in Reno. It was a 5K race, three times around a one mile dirt trail. I was training to run my first Bay to Breakers and figured I would give this little race a shot. People flew past me as I resisted the urge to keep up with them all. And when I finally crossed the finish line in the way, way back of the pack, people were still there cheering me on, telling me what a great job I did. And they were genuine. I was walking on air because I did it! I finished, which in my mind was better then the people who were standing on the sidelines did. I went into it knowing I didn’t have a chance at a top place, my only hope was to finish. I knew I was not a great runner and I know that I never will be. But you know, someone has to finish first and someone has to finish last. How about that for a life lesson?
So in some effort to bring this back around to my e-mail this morning… What this comes down to is what is wrong with recognizing the investigators of the project who worked hard and succeeded AT an awards ceremony? Apparently it is more conducive to have your performance award stuck in an envelope and put in plant mail by your manager? We certainly don’t want to hurt the feelings of those PI’s whose projects were cut by the client, or deemed not in their business interest. They didn’t fail, in most instances they weren’t given the chance to fail simply based off of a successful business model.
I realize that I am 100% completely lucky that the company was interested in my research AND that I was successful in integrating it with their production line. I am at that critical point in my career where I need people to know what I do and what I do well since I suck at tooting my own horn.
Teamwork has its place and I don’t mean to belittle it in any way. We are being honored as the team that brought in $5 million in private funding and I am more than proud to have had a hand in that. But here is where my analytical analytical side is called into question… but what about ME… recognize ME!!!