This spring, I’m participating for the second time on the selection committee for the Tufts Distinction Awards.  I wrote about this last year, when the awards were brand new.  Whereas last year’s committee had the chance to create a new University tradition, this year we’re helping to shepherd the program to a more established and mature place.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be limited to two years on the committee, which seems about right.  Next year it will be someone else’s turn.

A couple of weeks back I read the nominations, about 75 in total, that my subcommittee will consider.  (There are four award categories, and two subcommittees that consider two categories each.) After working through the pages and pages of nominations, I took away an observation and a lesson.

First the observation:  There are a whole lot of members of the University community who want their colleagues to receive wider recognition for their work, particularly those who have been doing good work for a long time.  Longevity itself is an accomplishment.  It’s especially gratifying when the professors in a certain department recognize that they couldn’t do their work without the support of the department’s administrators, many of whom have been toiling away for years and years.

And now, since many blog readers are in the early stages of their careers, I want to share the chief lesson I took away from the process:  Employees stand out when they do their jobs well, and do them with grace and a sense of humor.  That’s it.  The key to being appreciated in your workplace.

Sounds too simple?  Maybe, but reading the nominators’ comments, I was struck both last year and this, that people at the University value working with supervisors, peers, and employees who, in the words of one nominator, do “many things, all of them well, all of them cheerfully.”  Or, as another nominator describes a nominee, “at the same time a gentle presence in our lives and a tornado of sheer effectiveness.”

I have definitely taken the nominations’ lessons to heart.  Not all of us can be a tornado of effectiveness, but we can all afford to work a little harder and cheer our colleagues a little more.  It’s a workplace lesson to live by.


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