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Feeling excluded and sad for not getting positive feedback - How should I react?

sloan profile image Sloan ・1 min read

I am in a situation where I feel very bad, excluded and sad.

I work in a small team on projects for clients. The team consists of three frontend developers, a designer, and our project manager. My role is more backend and ops (typical DevOps job).

It has happened many times now that our project manager and the client praise our work. Unfortunately, this praise is only given to the designer and the frontend developers (they are addressed directly). I'm starting to feel very upset because I think I'm doing a lot to make the application run smoothly and the servers stable.

Yesterday, another subproject was launched and again only the frontend developers were praised for their work. Although I have also contributed a large part and even supported during an illness from home.

I really like working in this company and don't want to quit and look for a new employer, but it feels very demotivating for me.

I also know that software projects can only be successful as a team and support colleagues and clients where I can, but slowly I start to doubt myself and my abilities.

How would you react in my situation? What are your suggestions?

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Sloan

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How would you react in my situation?

Probably the same way as you. I think most of us can relate to this situation.

On the other hand, I'm also more likely to fall in the shoes of the other person these days, e.g. a busy manager. Sometimes when folks seem like they are self-reliant and are self-starters we forget they still need positive feedback. But instead we spend all our motivational energy in the places that need them more. The squeaky wheel gets the grease as they say.

Why don't you send a message or email like this...

Hey MANAGER,
I just wanted to bring up something small. I feel like since my work is more under the hood I don't get as much feedback or recognition at times compared to more product-oriented work. I'm motivated by positive feedback to know when I'm on the right track with my duties, so just a bit more consistent feedback would go a long way. Thanks a lot, let me know if this all makes sense.

I'd say you can be gentle and downplay it a bit in this first point of contact. I don't think you need to place much blame. If they can't be perceptive to this kind of thing I think you can treat it like a red flag, but there's a good chance you get a warm response and a slightly better effort going forward.

 

Raising your concern to your manager sounds like the best thing to do, but I'd also recommend you to try raising awareness about your contribution to the project or product. Not like bragging, but something like writing in Slack general channel or sending an email to the whole team once you finish a relevant task.
I imagine something like "hey team, I just deployed the feature "x" which will help us in "y" way. Let me know if you need anything, happy coding!".
Hope this helps! Good luck from one backend dev to another 🙂

 

This is pulled from an email that I wrote about 10 months ago for this same reason:

"Hey Project Manager, I love getting theses emails and seeing the positive impact our team is having. It's awesome having that feeling of accomplishment! Would you mind including some of the work I've done in future emails? I'd like to participate and be more integrated into the group recognition."

Her response: "I cannot believe that I forgot to include you all that time. Thank you for reminding me and I profusely apologize."

I was included in every email from that point forward. :)

 

Receiving adulation for my work is my lowest priority of needs. So I would not react.

Even if I could afford to care about receiving adulation I would accept that I was in a role that is common not to receive praise which would quell its importance.

If receiving adulation was an important factor to me my actions would be decided based on my reputation score.

Asking for the company to be inclusive of my need for adulation would result in a hard-check against my reputation which could set me back for advancement in my career or switching jobs.

  • If I could not afford a hard-check to my reputation I would switch companies
  • If I could afford a hard-check to my reputation then I would ask the company to comply with my request
  • If I had a very good reputation score. We're talking 900+ then I would get a formal offer from another company and show it to the company and negotiate a better deal or it not take the new offer.

This is what I would do. But I don't know if my advice or any other is best for you.
Do you deserve the share of the praise? Yes.

 

Commonly people think like this:

  • A good structure is a must-have
  • A good design/eye-candy is a plus

Because bad structures sometimes break things in a way that they simply dont work anymore, which makes good structures seems like the normal, because for many people its a matter of " this is working" or "this is not working".

While a bad design can exist, a bad design still "works" without a crisis, making the good designs shine as a "better" not "normal" thing, it seems like a plus. So its not a question of "work" and not "work", but "working" and "working better" for design in general.

Of course that same gradient between the good, the bad and the ugly also exists on the back end and ops, but requires extra knowledge to see, its not intuitive. Maybe your boss thinks that your job is just normal, its just how it is, is "working". Those things happens because the devops is a very unfair role: its fucking helpful, can help and save tons of time and money, but its also obscure to many people see its importance until they lost/need it, and for many people its just a fancy name for a hyped sys admin. A tip: keep working hard and focus on be better than yourself everyday, in a way that this will turn your role clear enought to people say UOW.

Ive been in your position, or i think so: i builded a custom deployer to a product, changing the update flow, saving time and money and avoiding error incidence, but at the end, its about the front and experience that your manager will be talking with the customers, and thats ok. Sometimes also take a time for us to learn about our managers limitations and modus op. and thats also a great exercise: try to understand your manager, give him a feed back on your head, with respect and honesty. Answer to yourself: why is this happening? Sometimes it takes a while to answer this question, but that should be ok, cuz you will be in moviment.

 

Yeah, people like shiny things to look at, and that's where the praise goes. I recall one occasion where I'd built years worth of quality middle tier code pretty much without a comment. Then I made one small tweak to the UI which no one else knew how to do, and everyone was excited and praising me for days. Hard as it seems. that's just the way it is.

Remember, you are doing great work, and I expect that you are appreciated. It's just not easy to get excited about the capabilities of backend code.

 

The first thing I thought of when I read this was "drummers". They're the ones in the background holding everything together and keeping the beat going; but who gets the limelight? The guitarists :(

I guess it's not much consolation to know you're not alone and of course it can be frustrating; but I'd be more concerned whether your front-end colleagues appreciate your work than your manager. In your position I would actively seek their feedback.

 

I think this isn't terribly uncommon.

If you work in an agency, you notice after a while that there are no award ceremonies for developers. The certificates and placards and engraved crystal trophies given out at black-tie dinners are all for designers.

I've worked for agencies that have won awards for "best design" when the designs were never built because they were completely unusable, which came out after the client had signed them off and no developer had been asked for input.

To a lesser extent, the further towards the back-end you sit, the less obvious praise you're going to get. But you do get appreciated, it's just not shouted to the rooftops.

And I know that doesn't feel great, especially the way you describe it. Maybe the next time you have a review or one-to-one with your manager (assuming you get these) you can bring it up? I wouldn't say anything as blunt as "I want my adulation!" but how about asking for a 360-review or whether other people think you're doing a good enough job?

 

It's important to compartmentalize the feedback you receive (or don't receive) alongside where the feedback is originating from. In other words, if you are bothered by the lack of positive feedback (or any feedback) from the client, then I'd respectfully tell you that you might need to readjust your goals/objectives. Because most clients (i.e., end users) have little-to-no understanding of what happens on the backend of an application.

Think about it like this: You may tour a gorgeous home. And you have high praise for the interior designer who laid out all the aesthetic niceties. But would you go out of your way to find the plumber, or the roofer, or the electrician who really made the house "work" and praise them for their efforts?? Probably not.

Unfortunately, some PMs are no more understanding of the "plumbing" than the client. They may be embedded in your team. But too many of them are only grokking the effort based on what they can see (i.e., the frontend bells-and-whistles). I'm not saying that a PM shouldn't be including you in their praise. But for some PMs, it's extremely difficult for them to recognize or appreciate all the backend effort.

This isn't to say that you shouldn't care about (or seek out) feedback. But you might be able to improve your own mental state by ensuring that you're soliciting feedback from those who can actually assess/appreciate your efforts. I've worked on projects where I really couldn't care less what the PM/client said about my work - because I knew that they couldn't really "grasp" it. But I still wanted/sought feedback from others in the company who did, in fact, understand the nature of my work.

If you work in a very small company, on a very small team, it's theoretically possible that no one in the company actually understands your contribution. Under that scenario, you need to make the conscious decision to either A) work autonomously and "unplug yourself" from the natural human desire for praise, or B) move to another company where there are more backend/technical people who can assess your contributions and praise them when appropriate.

 

A lot of great thoughts were already shared here. I want to add another aspect that is really important to myself:

Whenever you are in such a situation, remember that there are probably a lot of other people having the same problem as you and you can maybe the one changing that.

For example: I'm not a good socializer, but I notice others that have the same problem quite well and can just go and have a nice conversation with them. Most of the times this works quite well.

So: When you feel you get to few attention for the things you do, begin to change that by doing the first step by yourself: Praise the others if they do good work; I'm quite sure that after a while they will start to do the same to you 🙂

 

I think I know how you feel. I've been there too.

It was sad, frustrating, even upsetting.

At the same time, I believe that such feelings can only make thing worse for yourself. Is not that you should not feel them, but recognise that the first effect they will have may be to just make you feel worse.

Personally I would go to my manager, ask a face to face meeting and express my feelings.
I would be careful not to blame others.
Be calm, it may be that this not the truth, so your manager is not expressing their praise but thinks you deserve it.
I would focus the talk on how I feel. I would try to understand if my manager cares about it (if they does, generally they would make some effort to improve on that).

And if they doesn't, I would look for another place; if I have to work most of my life, at least I want my manager to care about me as a person.

Most of the time tough, I found people that cared. I hope you do too 🙂

 

Hey
Sometimes we ourselves tend to be overly sensitive and biased regarding our surroundings. I mean our mind tends to play a negative story of what's happening around us (maybe it is something that is there since immemorial times when we were living on a cave and with dinossaurs) and we tend to act and react defensively to a perceived "hostile" environment.
I think we all, now and then, fall on that trap and replay what has happened (or not) on our minds and replay them over-and-over-and-over-again...
So (based on my 20+ years of experience on this business) I would recommend you 2 things:

  • don't give too much importance about it (meaning, don't take it too personally). try to relax, seriously.
  • second: journal everything that happens on your dailly work routine, and I mean EVERYTHING. Have a spreadshet (like I do) where I add a line for each good or bad thing that happens to you (and your colleagues - if your're a team lead or responsible for others work). Examples:

    • some congrats email from colleague or customer - write it down,
    • some frustration passed onto you when chatting online with your boss - take not of that
    • something you contributed to deliver the task on time - write it
    • some problema dealing with a co-worker that sistematicaly delays his/her answer to something - write it
    • a proactive action you took on day X to achieve Y
    • if a colleague complains about something that was misuderstood by you - write it down
    • you staied late to make sure something was delivered on time - write it
    • and so on...

Not only will this boost your morale (you're looking at your own list of personal achivements) - and we do tend to forget things we did couple of months ago (you can imagine what the others forget - they don't even know what you did last week).
Everyone is concerned with him or herself afterall so it is "normal" to forget the "other" - the quotes here are of high significance ;o) - even if you're not a selfish person. It is just human nature.

And then... with that list in hand, next time you have a perfomance evaluation or wathever, you can bring your own "narrative" of the story supported by FACTS (this is the important word here).

And these FACTS are the ones you wrote down on your journal.

There's no ambiguity and no BS.
Just cristal clear conversation... and expectations.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck

/Ricardo (Portugal)

 

I think you should, like many other people are saying, talk to your manager about how you’re not getting any feedback on your work. When it comes to clients and managers, they don’t tend to understand how the backend powers their application.
But I also would try to keep your head up. Sure, you’re not being recognized for your work (and you should rightfully be recognized), but usually people may not realize your importance until they can tangibly see it. The frontend devs produce results that are observable which is why they get all the praise. The backend devs produce results, however, that are unobservable, which is why they may not get feedback or praise immediately. Essentially, your manager/client’s reaction is typical of human nature and behavior. As long as this doesn’t get to a point where the company is challenging your position or your razon d’etre, then I would try to not be so alarmed. Again, shoot an email to your manager about your need for recognition, but don’t let your desire to get attention affect your work. You’re still important, even if people aren’t telling you so.
Good luck, hope things work out.

 

I do not know if you mean that they do it on purpose but, not being this the case, in general I feel the following:

  • design and frontend are there for everyone to see
  • without the backend, nothing would be seen
 

I think your reaction is relatively normal, but maybe the first question you need to ask yourself is why you need that feedback, or what you would get out of it? Do you want the self-esteem boost? Or maybe it's more important that people acknowledge that the work that is done in the back end of things is important? Or does it come from a bit of insecurity about your capacities? Do you maybe feel like as the back-ender you're not as much part of the team? There's tons of reasons why one would like some more (positive) feedback.

If you are unhappy, it means that a need is not being addressed. If you manage to clearly formulate what the need is, it will be easier to make sure it is met. I think that walking over to your manager and just asking for more positive feedback might not cut it. Especially if what you get back in return is a simple "oh yeah thanks for the back-end, it works".

 

I'd say mention it during your 1-on-1 with the person you report to. I'd assume that there are no 1-on-1's where you work, because the managers in our industry rarely know about leadership best practices.

My advice is to suggest 1-on-1s

 

Backend developers are the quintessential unsung heroes. The reminder that helps is, they couldn't do this without me.

 

As already mentioned before here, maybe the best thing is to try and talk to manager/lead directly. Teams are always focused more in one area and than that gets more praises.

Think maybe in general if you can do something to push on your side to become more visible. Is it talking more on standup, explaining results of your changes or just maybe doing some demo.

Last, but maybe most important after these, depending on results, think really good do you want to spend extra effort for a place where you are currently. Do you see possibility of it improving in a way that you feel good there? Your work is taking quite a big part of your day and impacts your outside of work life. If you end up thinking it isn't worth it be ready to move on.

 

My point of view is you need to stop looking for other people's approval and learn how to communicate better.

Is not wrong to wanting approval, but is wrong to need it to do things or improve yourself, and is also wrong not to let people know how you feel about things.

Also, learn how to take feedback. People might have critics about your work, not you. And feedback always helps us to be better, either we like what we hear or not, and most times than not we're not going to, because we take it the wrong way.

Emotions and work are not disconnected from each other and just because we work with computers doesn't mean we should think and behave like them.

If you need guidance, ask for it. If you need training or mentoring, ask for it. If you need approval, learn to approve yourself first, and the rest will follow.

Now, from experience, I can tell you most of these problems are solved with the right kind and amount of communication, and you need to make your part in that. If people are not communicating with you, that's on them, but if you are not communicating with them, that's on you.

Take small steps to communicate better with your team and don't be afraid to open up about emotions and feelings at work, again right amount, the right way. Those things don't hold us back, but instead, connect us with people on a different level.

One quick tip I can give you, learn what really excites you about your work and share with your co-workers. Ask them about what excites them about their work and find common ground and use that to start conversations and engage better with people.

Best of lucks

 

Hey,
you should do what you need. Get some positive feedback.
Your manager is responsible for you and for your performance. If he needs to bake you a cake, he should. A manager should support his team, most times not technical, more emotional and do the administration stuff.

I know that it is not very common to ask for positive feedback, but if this is what makes your day better than why not? There is nothing, really nothing bad if you do "fishing for compliments". I guess the most important point here is to make sure your manager got that you are serious about asking for positive feedback. It shouldn't be a short "You are so nice!, We need you!". He should tell you why they need you, what makes you to the important guy in backend.

 

Nothing to add to what's already been said by the others (and I've been there), but I must say this reminds me of an episode of The IT Crowd where everyone but the IT team gets the props from the big boss. It was humourous but based in reality.

 

I would probably say raise with your manager, but that's probably not something I would do, not because it is wrong; just because...

In lieu of that there's one key thing that is easier to get from backend and DevOps things, metrics, let people know how consistently the platform is operating, how you have made it X cheaper by doing something.

Front ends are easy to compliment because they are the obvious thing you interact with, but a nice front end counts for nothing if the users don't get a good experience from the backend and infrastructure too, those things are much easier to quantify.

 

Maybe I am selfish but tbh all I care for in a job is to learn and to make $. Other than that, the rest are negociable (maybe $ can be negociable but learning NO).

That beig said I do sympathize with you and I do think that positive feedback goes a long way in boosting up productivity. I like how Ben put it: the squeaky wheel gets the grease haha maybe that s true in your case too.

I think you should decide, either speak up, bear with it or leave. You can either change your environment, adapt to it or be changed by it.

Cheers

 

Talk to your manager and remember clients have no idea on coding so they feel good about what they see. There are also more rewarding jobs out there.