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Commentary: How to deal with everyday injustices at the office

Not being credited, not being thanked — they happen to everyone, says one observer at the Financial Times.

LONDON: When the chief executive names all those who worked on the rebranding, he leaves you out.

The day after the conference you had spent eight months organising, your boss does not thank you.

The in-house education plan you drafted and submitted receives an effusive thank-you from the human resources director — to your line manager, who did no more than rewrite the introduction and switch around a couple of paragraphs.

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Plenty is written about how to ask for salary increases, seek out development opportunities or stop your career progress being derailed by a work break. Less often discussed are the everyday slights, irritations and covert put-downs that make up so much of corporate life.

So if you have been subjected to one of these company insults — and yours must be a singular career if you have not — what should you do?

We are not talking here about sexual or racial harassment or serious bullying, which you should report, persistently, until action is taken. This is about the small affronts that nevertheless rankle, that keep you awake at night, because you feel overlooked or unappreciated.

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However badly treated you think you have been, there is sometimes a case for doing nothing. You should ask yourself: how much does this really matter?

What seems important to you might, in your boss’s or company’s mind, be a matter of no great consequence. Possibly no one was trying to insult you; perhaps they did not even notice that you had not been acknowledged.

Often, what seems like a calculated insult is just thoughtlessness. You could try to forget your hurt, think about all the positives in your job, and move on.

A woman engaged in a discussion in a cafe. (Photo: Pixabay)


Another option is the passive-aggressive message. You could email the boss who did not thank you for the work, asking if she felt it went okay. If you were the sole organiser of the all-day conference, this is relatively low risk. You will probably get an email back saying:

Yes, I meant to say, I thought it was great. Well done.

When you are not the only contributor to a project and your name has been left off the list of those who participated, it is trickier. Calling attention to the list compiler’s lapse could produce a “So sorry, many apologies for leaving you out!”

But there is also a danger that you will simply annoy the compiler, who will mark you down as a whinger. That may be a price worth paying for your own self-esteem.

If the insult was not perpetrated by your manager, it is easier to respond. You can explain what has happened and ask him to intercede on your behalf. A decent manager will act immediately, making sure you get some credit.

If yours does not, clearly preferring not to annoy the higher-ups, start looking for a move, either in the company or elsewhere. One of a manager’s most important jobs is to protect the members of their team.


An alternative is to bide your time. There may be a better moment to ensure you get the acknowledgment you think you are due.

At your six-month or annual appraisal, you could mention the overlooked achievement as something you had done and have it placed on your record.

To avoid being overlooked in the first place, you can note your contribution all along the way. You can send emails updating everyone on the work. You can record it on social media. Just do not overdo it or appear too needy.

Or you can just do as well next time, in the expectation that it will eventually be acknowledged. The best managers will pay attention. Those who do not are not going to help you in your career anyway. Once again, if this happens too often, move on.

Try to be the colleague who makes sure others are included in the praise. And if you are the manager doling out the thanks, spend some time finding out who really did the work. They do notice. 

Praise is the most powerful motivator, and it costs you and the company nothing.

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Source: Financial Times/sl