Dear Bureaucrat, my boss doesn’t reward me

Dear Bureaucrat,

I’ve been doing the same job for three years, and I’ve learned how to keep everything running smoothly so no problems reach the higher-ups. If it wasn’t for me, there would be some train wrecks that would look bad for our agency. But my boss doesn’t appreciate me. I get basically the same treatment as everybody else who isn’t a problem employee. Meanwhile, the people who work on senior executives’ pet projects get awards, first pick of travel and training, etc., even though they’re not accomplishing much. How can I get the recognition I deserve?

Ms. Cellophane


Dear Cellophane,

You’re right, employees who work on the pet projects of the most powerful people in an organization are treated better. One reason is that their efforts are more visible to the people who decide who gets what. Another reason is that senior officials are disproportionately concerned with their signature projects, compared to the regular work of the organization. Their egos and their future job prospects depend on whether the projects they are personally identified with are seen as successful. So they lavish the organization’s resources on their pet projects, including bonuses and other recognition to recruit, retain and motivate the people working on them. The official also benefits from a “halo effect”—by rewarding employees who work on the pet project, the official helps spread the story that the project is successful and important.

One strategy for getting more recognition is… Read the rest at

Author: David S. Reed

David S. Reed is the public administration expert who writes Dear Bureaucrat, the advice column for people who work in the public sector, published in Federal Times.

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