You gave your project everything you’ve got. You learned everything you can to be able to deliver the best solution to your client’s challenges. You even render overtime hours for free just to get the job done.
But after all that you’ve done, after all the dedication and sacrifice, your client never gave you the acknowledgment and appreciation that you deserve. It’s heartbreaking and demoralizing. I know because I’ve been there.
In those 10 years that I’ve spent developing software, there are times when I don’t really get what I deserve. There were times I got shortchanged, times when I got ignored, times when I gave more just to get less. I try not to mind those things because first, I always think I’m a professional and professionals don’t need to be recognized just to do what they’re paid to do. Second, agreements are a two-way street and you can’t be shortchanged if you don’t agree with the terms, so it’s not exactly their problem if you make the mistake of accepting an inferior offer. Third, I love solving people’s problems and I love telling people what to do.
To put it simply, it’s not just a job for me. It’s my passion and it’s what I want to do.
But there are times when my monkey brain would get all primal, lose all its inhibitions, and demand more. Who in their right mind would want less than what they deserve, right? Who doesn’t want to be recognized? Who doesn’t want to be paid more? Who wants to do more than what they’re getting? No one in their right mind would.
Sometimes it gets depressing. I ask myself if I’m really not deserving of the things that I want. Should I do more? Should I work harder? When you’re already giving it your all and you still don’t get what you want, you will lose your motivation eventually. I keep on telling myself that I’m a professional and all that matters to me is to get the job done. But deep in my heart, I know it’s not true. I want more than just getting the job done.
My situation only started improving when I finally realized a few things. They’re not anything revolutionary or anything. They’re just a few truths that we usually don’t think about. It starts with one thing… (Insert more Linkin Park references here. Just kidding.)
You have to accept that your client, your boss, or anyone, will never appreciate what you do or what you offer until you’re gone.
It’s human nature to see the bad things first before they see the good things. It takes a lot of effort to see the good in people, and not everyone has the time or energy for that. Most of the time, the only time they will see someone’s importance is when that person is not there anymore. The phrase “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” is not popular for nothing.
So what can we do with this information? It’s simple. Knowing this information, we start to understand the situation, we may realize other things, and start to see what really matters to us. We can use the information to set the right expectations. After all, you’re less likely to get hurt when you know what’s about to happen.
You know you will never please your client. So just do what you have to do, deliver the work that you promised to deliver as soon as possible, and go home. Give yourself enough time to rest. Reward yourself if you think you’ve done well. Spend some time with your loved ones. Rinse and repeat.
Celebrate the wins no matter how big or small, and learn from your shortcomings. Don’t even think about whether you please your client or not. If they acknowledge you for your good work, then good. But don’t let it define your value. Instead, think of your core objectives. Did you pay the bills this month? That’s a win. Did you learn something new or did you learn how to make your process more efficient? That’s a win. Did you screw up a lot but you know you did your best? It’s not exactly a win, although it can be a learning experience. Do not consider external factors when you’re gauging your progress. Instead, focus on the factors that directly matter to you and your life.
Now, if you’re fed up and you can’t take any of the bullcrap anymore, you can do one of two things.
One, you can talk to your boss or your client about it. Nothing is absolute or guaranteed in this world other than death or taxes. So again, set the right expectations.
Two, if you don’t want to deal with this, or you did and they did not listen, you always have the option to resign. This is the nuclear option and depending on your circumstances, this may or may not work for you. So tread lightly.
You know your client will never appreciate your efforts. But that’s okay. At the end of the day, work is just work, clients can and will replace you in due time, and you’re more than your career. More than your client or anyone, you should see your own value, and that holds more water than anyone’s opinion.
Bien is a software engineer for more than 10 years, focusing on Microsoft .NET technology. He developed solutions ranging from embedded systems to accounting systems. He spends his free time trying to understand the world and its people.