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Get Over Your Fear and Acknowledge Your Boss

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Senior managers rank among the most under-acknowledged people in the workplace.

Part of it comes down to harried, stressed out, schedule-conscious project managers not being overly concerned with delivering the praise that does pop up in their brains from time to time. And we also wonder if that praise will be taken the wrong way. Will managers think we're just trying to get on their good side?

But once they're encouraged to acknowledge upward, people can't seem to wait to take action. In one virtual course I led, a project manager texted "I'll be right back. I have to go acknowledge my boss!"

Ten minutes later he was back. "I did it!!!" he texted, and you could feel his pride. We all felt proud of him, too, and shared his three-exclamation-mark excitement.

I was pleased to hear a similar story in a different course:
Some time ago, I had told my boss privately, but I had not told anyone publicly (so as not to embarrass him too much) that he was my hero -- that he had saved me from an almost intolerable situation and allowed me to retain my dignity. I'd always felt that he acknowledged me, but was especially honored as a result of the appointment to my current position.

"What he hasn't known, but will now," I told our class, with my boss sitting right there, "is that because of this, I say thank you to him every day that I've worked here, since November 2008, through my password, which is a combination of a 'thank you' to him and his name." - Jyll D. Townes, deputy commissioner for regional affairs, New York State Division of Human Rights
When Jyll told this story, her boss -- and everyone else in the room -- just lit up! It was so refreshing and wonderful to see. He was totally surprised and moved. She took the risk of acknowledging upward in a public setting and reaped the reward.

Don't hold back appreciation because of a person's position or influence. Sometimes those in the highest positions need our acknowledgment the most. Theirs can be a lonely and stressful path. Letting them know they made or make a difference in the workplace and in our lives will go a long way.
Feel free to post an acknowledgment of your manager as a comment to this blog! 


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This is a great topic and article. I always say that the cheapest and easiest way to give acknowledgment and recognition is to say Thank You.

Saying Thank You is never a bad idea, even in those org cultures who look down upon it. (BTW, this is a red flag of an unhealthy org culture, which could stand some positive role models).

In one of my previous jobs, I worked for a very passive aggressive boss. I am so thankful for a lateral supervisor who took me under her wing and mentored me and helped me navigate the treacherous waters I had to work in. To this day, we have remained friends and colleagues, and now it's time for me to support her in her endeavors.

When I teach PM courses I often hear students asking me to teach people how to be good project sponsors and stakeholders. We often forget that "delegating up" also includes "recognizing up."

One way we can encourage supportive behaviors is to appreciate and recognize those behaviors. Sure, that takes time, but it's something simple and easy that we can do on an individual basis to foster excellence in each other.

Thank you all for contributing to a great topic!

I think acknowledgment of senior bosses have a relation with culture. For example in some areas, when you acknowledge your boss, it has a bad image on you and people may belittle you. But we have to make acknowledgment of all staff, including bosses, a part of our firm's cultures.

Atin and Demitri have both contributed excellent ideas and support for acknowledging our bosses/managers. I like the statement Dmitri makes that we act as if they are an "ironman," and no one is. I would like to invite Atin and Dmitri -- and anyone else -- to share specific examples of what they have acknowledged their managers for! And you can even acknowledge them publicly by name or function! That is a good way of starting this great process.

I agree acknowledgment is always necessary, whatever the form is - private or public. Many of us have reservations on acknowledging our bosses and we often behave too reserved and over-conscious and restrain ourselves, even when it is highly required.

It is also important to know how, when and what we should acknowledge. For general thanks giving, a public note is fine. For support, mentoring, encouragement in one’s carrier growth, private thanks giving in form of gratitude looks nice. For crucial matters, critical turn around (e.g. ‘without the help or influence of higher level it would have never been achieved’) situations require both private and public broadcast.

The success of outcome also depends on how it has been communicated.
Finally to and fro compliments are required, because project managers know that senior management commitment is essential in the road of project success.

I'm in total agreement. I had occurrences where I realized that everyone gets praised but not the senior mgr, as if he or she is an ironman of some kind. Realizing that we are all people and have most of the same needs, I use opportunities to acknowledge my bosses, and I have a few :)

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