Back when I was a mere sixth grade student teacher (yes that’s right, for those who are new to this blog, this shopgirl is an education convert) I was offered a compliment by a student.
I was taught to be humble, I was taught to feel shame over pride, so the conversation went something like this:
Student: “I like your hair today Ms. E.”
Myself: “Uh I…like your shirt.”
Her shirt was nothing to write home about, one of those terrible neon tees handed out for free at some day camp or church event. Her face was confused, and to a degree I believe I read a tinge of hurt. My absolutely amazing mentor teacher teased, “don’t know how to receive compliments do we?”
I blushed, but I wasn’t going to deny it.
How It Showed in My Career
This carried on into my career. Anytime anyone leant me a compliment, I, as a leader, would hand off the compliment to one of my employees. Phew that almost got awkward. My employees were my scapegoat.
My DM: “Jess, sales are booming out there, you have really turned things around.”
Me: “That’s all them, I’m just lucky enough to be a part of the team.”
Don’t get me wrong, this attitude was an instrumental part of my success as a manager, I appreciated my employees, and they heard that appreciation through every conversation I had with anyone who may have addressed the amazing customer service they experienced.
And the same went for store complaints. It didn’t matter what the issue was, in the end I was the the leader, so I was the bottomline. If a trouble employee continued to fall astray I considered it as a part of my failures, and less their lack of interest. I needed to carry all their burdens, and take the bullets for all the blowback from their mistakes.
What Was I Thinking?!
There is one day though that resonated with me, the moment that I realized that all this time I should have allowed a shimmer of spotlight to peek down on me. The time that when my trials as a district manager, when I was continuously being challenged to prove my worth I had wished to have collected that portfolio of good deeds and accomplishments. When facing my bitter tailspin of defeat I thought back on the day I should have just said, “Yes, thank you.”
It was a busy Saturday in March in one of my most struggling locations. The sun was out, and the spring weather had brought a rare flock of at least 8 customers in our store at once. I felt invigorated and made my way, shuffling across the aisles, assuring I made a personal connection with each and every patron.
After about thirty minutes of effort a woman grabbed my arm quite suddenly. Her face was kind, “Can I speak to your manager,” she asked.
At this point I was the DM’s Assistant, so I shrugged, “I’m sorry is something the matter? Someway we can improve your experience?”
“No ma’am, I just want to know who I tell about your exceptional service, I have not seen anyone as passionate about their job as you.”
I blushed, and found myself quite embarrassed. My cheeks showed their familiar flush, “That’s very kind, but I don’t need recognition.”
She looked at me long and hard for a moment, as if to say something, or insist on reaching out to my employer. But after her pregnant pause she left. I watched her leave my store, and down the sidewalk, and a piece of me broke inside. Years of this job, and never once had my name printed in the newsletter for anything that wasn’t of my measurable numbers and promotional successes. The word passionate resonated with me, those numbers didn’t demonstrate my heart and devotion.
What were numbers but something that could be chalked up as luck, a fluke, or simple economical demand? I had a wrap sheet of facts and figures that the credit for which was all devoted to other employees. The heart of my file, the very soul of my personal worth towards the company was empty.
Women in particular seem to struggle in owning their success, awaiting for someone to just notice their efforts and honor them for it. But the reality is, we have to own what we have achieved, and when appropriate allow ourselves to receive recognition. Owning compliments will rejuvenate your self worth and motivate you further in your endeavors. It does no one any favors to keep it under lock and key.
Until Next Time Fanboys and Girls—>