Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Job Well Appreciated

"Thank you."

Those simple words sum up a letter I wrote yesterday to T, one of my employees at a job I held in New Mexico five years ago. I hired T after the company I worked for was sold and I was handed a new, if somewhat intimidating, new assignment--put together a team to execute the new company's community outreach in all 121,000 square miles of the state.

I put your name in the jar, T, because I've always wanted to tell you how much I appreciated you as an employee. I was a little nervous, having been handed this new assignment, and your hard work, dedication, problem solving, creativity and imagination made my job so much easier. I always felt confident that the southern part of the state was in capable hands--your enterprising spirit and conscientiousness meant a good opportunity for outreach and promotion was never missed. I don't know as I ever really thanked you for all you did, and let you know how much I appreciated you. Please accept my thanks and appreciation now.

Expressing my written gratitude to T felt good, but as I wrote, I also felt a touch of regret that I didn't do more to let him know while he was still working for me. Not that I never expressed any appreciation--there were day-to-day "thank yous" and I made sure his glowing performance review was matched with the best raise I could give him--but I'm pretty sure I never told him exactly how his hard work helped me succeed.

T's is the second letter I've written to a former employee. A couple months ago I wrote to S, who was put in the awkward position of having to bring me, her new supervisor, up-to-speed on aspects of a job she clearly knew much better than I. It could have been the recipe for a strained relationship, but S was gracious and outgoing and made me feel entirely welcome. In my letter I thanked her for the gift of her acceptance, and also took the opportunity to tell her how much I admired her moxie as a single woman. I watched S buy a house and earn her master's degree; I had dreamt of those goals myself, but didn't have it together enough to do go after them. Not unsurprisingly, S is now succeeding in a manager's position not unlike the one I held as her supervisor.

Considering that I've spent upwards of 2000 hours of every one of the last 17 years in some sort of job, it's not surprising that many of the names in THE LETTER JAR would be from those places of employment. Common throughout my letters to those people--be they former bosses who gave me a chance, employees who put forth extraordinary effort or coworkers who became good friends--are those two simple words: thank you. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for being my mentor, no matter how our names were arranged on the organizational chart.

I'm reminded once again that while my letters may serve in some way as gifts to the recipients--it's  probably always nice to feel appreciated, even after the fact--the letters are gifts to me as well. They are gifts of awakening, of becoming aware of the opportunities I have to acknowledge how my current coworkers--bosses, employees and coworkers all included--contribute to my success on the job.

SPEAKING OF MENTORS: I was a couple of months into this project when I discovered Carla and her 365 Letters blog. I love how she weaves commentary of her day-to-day writing with fun updates about new postage stamps and thought-provoking potential letter topics. Thanks for being such an interesting and inspiring guide!

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