I’ve had many conversations with in-house designers over the years about the level of respect for design in corporate America. In many cases the people I’ve spoken to tell me that they don’t feel like design is respected where they work, or that their personal contributions as designers are respected either. I have to admit, I’ve had these feelings from time-to-time as well. But something happened recently that made me wonder if those feelings of disrespect are actual or unfounded: Simply put, I quit my job.
As so often happens in life an opportunity knocked on my door for career advancement outside of the company I am (was) working for. So I accepted the new opportunity and proceeded to resign from my position and then tell my peers, staff, and coworkers about my decision and plans.
Within a few days of my resignation I received many emails and phone calls from people wishing me the best in my new endeavors. The overwhelming majority of these messages included personal messages of gratitude for my contributions during my tenure with the company. Some of these emails and phone calls were even from people who I thought were my staunchest critics offering sincere words of praise, thanks, and respect for the creative process and how I was able to interject it into our workflow.
Now, other than being able to walk away from my job feeling like I actually did make a difference on some level and confident I’ll be able to do the same where I’m going…I’m left wondering why people wait until someone is walking out the door to acknowledge their contributions? As corporate employees we typically have performance reviews every six months or so. But why wait until a review to tell someone you appreciate what they do? As managers we’re told to offer criticism as soon as we can to correct behaviors. As art directors we do the same on a daily basis to ensure quality design work (as we learned in art class). Why then, do we not offer thanks and praise just as often, or as quickly?
Now before you all go and quit just to see who says nice things about you – which is not what I’m suggesting at all by the way – I want you to understand why I’m telling you that people have said such nice things to me as I’m walking out the door. And no, it’s not because people are just being nice. It’s one of life’s little lessons you learn over 20 years in the workplace; just because you feel like you’re not respected or appreciated, doesn’t mean that’s actually the case.
We’re taught in school to seek out criticism of our work, and if we’re lucky it’s constructive. I think it’s just as important to seek out praise for a job well done, or for your contributions overall.