“I feel like you don’t appreciate me.”
My breathe stopped short and I rewinded the dialog in my head to make sure I had heard her correctly. I was on a weekly – ok, more like semiweekly these days – call with my mom during my lunch hour. Like normal, we had to cut it short because one of us had to get back to work. So not only did my amazing, strong, caring, generous mother just tell me that she felt like I didn’t appreciate her – it had been weighing on her mind for awhile actually – but we also didn’t have time to discuss the matter or what I could do to rectify her feelings.
Not an hour later, I was sitting in an annual performance review with my boss as he reminded me that as the manager of a team that often feels neglected by executive management, I needed to make sure they always felt appreciated. There it was again: appreciation. He and I agreed that I actually do a good job of it, but he emphasized it as a key aspect of building and sustaining a successful team in a department where burnout, low pay and turnover are common.
Feeling appreciated (or not) was an apparent theme that afternoon. I didn’t express my appreciation to my mom nearly enough, but I made it clear among my team (to whom I represented their office mom). Meanwhile, they still felt unappreciated by our company’s higher-ups.
To me, not showing appreciation is equivalent to taking someone or something for granted. And I will be the first to say that I probably take a lot of people and fortunes in my life for granted. My family is likely right there at the top; my close friends too. So although my mom chalked her feelings up to not hearing from me enough and not getting unsolicited thank yous from me whenever she sent a card or package, I knew it came down to me taking her for granted. I consider my immediate family and I very close, even if phone calls to my sister and brother are more infrequent than those to my mom. But I will easily take an opportunity to go to the gym, out for drinks or see a band over calling one of them to catch up. I rest on the “fact” that I can always call them another time and that they’ll always be there. In reality, they may not always be there.
Also in reality, I appreciate my family and friends very much. I appreciate my sister for making me laugh and being an inspiration and always opening her home to me. I appreciate my brother for keeping me young and being such a considerate young man and giving me someone to explore with. Most of all, I appreciate my mother; I appreciate her for being a rock for us kids to lean on, for supporting us through college and beyond, for visiting me every year, for being my concert buddy and for always insisting on paying despite me being a capable adult with a grown-up job. I haven’t done a very good job of expressing my appreciation for them, and these few lines have only skimmed the surface.
While I’ve done a better job of showing my appreciation for my beloved team of exceptional editors, I know I can do better – and I know the executive managers can do better. Editors by nature often get neglected because they’re at the bottom of the the production chain; their work is considered nonessential and, thus, of lower value. But even though these societal conditions exist, it doesn’t mean my staff should feel unappreciated. I appreciate them for being an amazing support system and helping me enjoy my job day after day and leaving me confident that our work will get done on time and as expected. Even if the company’s leaders don’t express their appreciation enough, it exists: they appreciate my staff for working hard to meet their goals so we have a product to sell (basis of the company’s existence!), for producing high-quality work and for excelling in an area that no one else in the company does.
Without taking the focus off my shortcoming, I think it’s very easy for anyone to neglect the people they love or fail to show appreciation for things they might not otherwise be afforded. It’s very easy to get caught up in a daily routine, to be “too busy” or to think that there’s always tomorrow. But it’s so important to go out of your way, make the time, take those opportunities. And I say that as a perfect example of someone who needs to better express my appreciation and not take life for granted.
“Mom, I DO appreciate you!”