A thankless job

What does it mean when people say that a job is “thankless”? Okay, that’s a dumb question. The meaning is obvious: it’s a job where they don’t feel appreciated or recognized for what they do. No one thanks them; hence, a thankless job.

And I guess that’s not what I’m really wondering. I’m more interested in whether there really are any thankless jobs, or if it’s just a phrase people use. More importantly, do people have a right do use it, or is it an unreasonable term?

You could argue that you’re getting paid, and that’s all you should need out of a job. You meet your responsibilities, you get paid, life goes on. You could argue that.

You could also argue that being paid is only one form of remuneration. If so, everyone who performs a job–from mowing a lawn to enforcing the law–deserves recognition and appreciation for their efforts. I could potentially get on board with that.

But the truth is, I don’t agree with either perspective. They’re too black and white, and I’m all about the grey matter. I mean, grey area.

I think that if you simply carry out the responsibilities of your job, your thanks is getting whatever was the agreed-upon reward, be it a salary, an hourly wage, or a weekly allowance. If you go above and beyond your responsibilities, you’re doing so of your own volition. You can’t demand payment for something if no one agreed to give it in the first place. So if you’re going to go beyond, then you should do it for your own satisfaction.

I don’t think anyone should expect a raise or a bonus for doing their job (other than a cost-of-living increase, which isn’t the same thing).

Doesn’t sound too thrilling, does it? Sounds like I think everyone should be satisfied with what they’ve got and not be upset when they don’t get more. And that’s true. That’s what I think.

I also think that if you go above and beyond your responsibilities, then those efforts should be recognized and appreciated, either with a thank you, a raise, a bonus, or getting to stay up a little later before bedtime. I think the people who are in a position to reward you should do so in a reasonable manner.

In a nutshell, no one should expect to receive anything more than what’s been agreed to. And everyone should try to give more than what’s been agreed to.

In many cases, it’s a smile and a heartfelt thanks. A little effort to let someone know that their work is appreciated. That’s all it takes.

What got me going on this? I suppose I was wondering if I do that enough. Wondering if I could make more effort to let those around me know that their efforts are appreciated. You see, it’s not just relationships involving managers and employees, or parents and children. It’s every interaction we have where someone does something for us.

It’s the cashier in the checkout line. He or she deserves my thanks.

It’s the guy who delivers the package. Same deal.

The waiter/waitress who gets my order a little wrong, but is doing the best she can and making the best of it. I’m thankful for her efforts.

It’s the friend who looks in on my cats while I’m away. Chet and Min appreciate it; so do I.

And I want people to know that. Even if they come into my life for one brief moment, I want them to feel that their efforts made a difference. Because whether you think they did something important or not, they did something.

There have been times in my life when I’ve gotten upset because I didn’t get the appreciation I felt should have been shown to me. There are other times where I tried–consciously or subconsciously–to make people notice my efforts.

I suppose I’m a little wiser, now. I know that if I do something, then I do it for what’s agreed upon, or I do it for my own satisfaction. I expect nothing more than that.

And I’ll give as much of it as I can.