Friday, February 23, 2018

Atta Girl

Yesterday, I was talking to my daughter, who is looking for a new job. In addition to the normal activities (update and re-post resume, network, hunt through Monster, Indeed, Career Builder, file for unemployment insurance, etc.), I told her to find all her previous good reviews, positive notes, emails, etc.

This idea came from our Chief Nuclear Engineer, Roger Moore. I did some work for him for a few months years ago when his secretary was out with an injury. He asked me to do some filing. A few of the items were marked “Atta Boy.” I asked him about it.

“Whenever I get a commendation or note of thanks, I file it in my Atta Boy file. Then, when I feel underappreciated, I take them out to remind myself of the things I have done well in the past.”
After I spoke to my daughter, I decided to look at my own file again.

I found the plaque I received as part of a team tasked with improvement to the company’s on-time delivery. Within a couple of months, we went from more than fifty percent of products delivered late to ninety-nine percent on-time or ahead-of-time.

Another company had a policy were anyone could write up an employee for outstanding performance. These were given to HR. A copy went into the person’s personnel file, and the original went to the person acknowledged. I kept three of them for various accomplishments.

I kept all of my performance reviews over the year, nearly all of which were above average or outstanding. In looking through them, I realize I’d forgotten I actually did some of these things.

In the file are several awards and certificates for service to our church.

In 1983, I was given the President’s Award for outstanding work in my department. Only twenty people, in a company of over 4,000 employees, were honored. (I left the company the following year. At the time of my exit interview, my boss told me I would have received another one.)

A rumor circulated about a “doomsday list.” This list was supposed to contain the names of those who were so valuable they would be retained until the doors closed. Although management denied its existence, at my exit interview, my boss confirmed I was on the list, and so was Larry.
I still keep the letter of recommendation from one boss. He left the company in 1987 but wanted to make sure I had a letter before he left. He told me to write it myself. When I brought it back to him the first time, he said it wasn’t complimentary enough. He gave me a few more sentences and told me to rewrite it. I did so. But he still wasn’t satisfied and added a few more superlatives. I used it when I applied for most of my subsequent positions.

But my very favorite thing in the file is a simple hand-written note from a corporate vice president regarding a cost estimate I had prepared for microfilming a project. In part, it says:

I just read your…estimate. Superb job! It reads well, it’s easy to follow, and it looks good on the page—short paragraphs, etc. It appears you also typed it. Can you crack walnuts with your feet?

It is followed by a star and his name. This was from a VP not known for his sense of humor, so I have always treasured it.

I hope my daughter has a similar collection. When changing jobs, it is easy to slip in to insecurity, but with an atta boy or atta girl file, it’s easier to remember accomplishments and awards.

Do you have a file like this? Do you intend to start one?

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