The Challenges of Public Recognition

Recognizing helpers without making enemies

Tobiloba Adejumo
Tobiloba Adejumo

Writing is hard, but what’s more difficult is writing about people that have inspired and helped you publicly. I know it may not be your reality, but it is mine. I have been greatly helped by a lot of people. Writing about people that have been a shoulder for you in times of difficulty should be easy. After all, there are lots of experiences to share and stories to tell. You might even have photographic evidence to back up your points. It’s like putting a pen to paper for an artist and mouth to a microphone for a musician. However, the difficult part is not the writing itself, it’s the ‘remembering’. The consequences of forgetting to acknowledge someone important can be much more severe than the feeling you may derive by acknowledging those who have helped you.

“I could list a dozen names, but in doing so I'd make 12 friends and 500 enemies” - Richard G. Lyons

I know you may think that for you to forget someone ‘important‘, it clearly means that they were not so important in your life after all. But the reality is that these individuals may have played a vital role in getting you to where you are today even if they are not currently present in your life. It is possible that they may have been very instrumental during a specific stage of your life, but not as much as your current season. You know these things but you may not be aware of the potential harm present in forgetting to acknowledge those that have greatly being of help. Does this mean you should continue acknowledging someone who helped you 25 years ago? Does it mean you should stop publicly acknowledging someone? It's important to find what works for you.

I remember reading the acknowledgement section of my senior colleagues’ theses that completed their doctoral program. I couldn’t help but sense the obligation to list the names of everyone who had greatly assisted them throughout their program. It was a long list of names; names I did recognize and names I did not. However, one thing was certain: they all forgot to list names of people who I knew played a significant role in their success. I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing but it is something that stood out to me.

It is customary for me to yearly acknowledge people who have been of great assistance to me. There have been instances when I have deliberately omitted certain names, not because they are not valuable to me, but because I felt that the timing was not right. Acknowledging them too early could have been misinterpreted. But even though I tried so hard to remember everyone, I forgot many. Imagine for a split second what those who I deliberately skipped could have thought if I made a public post without acknowledging their kindness.

I often come across LinkedIn posts, full of acknowledgments, thanking people who have been of great service to them, but these posts are heavily edited. And I am sure that they were edited multiple times. If LinkedIn was to be open about how many times a post has been edited, and the names that were added as an afterthought, you would be shocked by the numbers.

Acknowledging people publicly is good, especially if it is required in your line of business, but remember that it requires a lot of hard work. Also, it is important not to forget someone important or be prepared to dance without a music.

What are your thoughts about this?

Until next time, stay on your path to greatness!

This post was originally published as my newsletter.

🌐 Life

Tobiloba Adejumo

Doctoral Candidate, Research Assistant at The University of Illinois Chicago | Biomedical Optics and Ophthalmic Imaging Lab