How to Handle Thankless Assignments

A thankless assignment is one where there is a limited upside for doing a great job on the assignment, but there is a serious downside if something goes wrong with it.

You (or someone you know) have been tasked with thankless assignments not once, but many times over unless you have been “Vegas-style lucky” – meaning VERY VERY lucky..

Over the last few years, I have helped a number of people handle thankless assignments and turn them into situations that will create potential advantages for them. Here I present those ideas that have worked well.

Here we go:

1. Understand AND track the big picture in real time

A thankless assignment is generally a piece of the big puzzle. If you don’t understand what the big picture looks like, you will be at a serious disadvantage. Why? Because the big picture keeps changing based on market conditions and for good or bad you may not be informed of all the changes even when it means that your assignment when completed will look like a square peg in a round hole. It is your responsibility to ensure that your assignment is tracking the big picture ALL the time.

2. Get visibility to your assignment

However big or small your assignment is, it is also your responsibility to get visibility to your part of the overall puzzle. Nobody is going to do that for you because if they did, it would not be called a thankless assignment. The more visibility you have, the lesser the chances that your efforts will be swept under the rug when the overall project succeeds.

3. Raise a silent alarm if anything else hurts completing your assignment

Your thankless assignment is rarely executed in a vacuum and there are dependencies on both sides. Your task i dependent on one or more people completing their tasks and there are others depending on your task to be completed for them to complete their assignments. The better you understand these dependencies better you will be. More importantly, ensure that you raise an early alarm if any dependencies on either side will affect your job to completed well. This will act as insurance policies should the overall project be affected for reasons that were beyond your control.

Honestly, I wish that you will never have to engage in thankless assignments. But, this is life. Whether you want or not, you will be faced with one or more of them. I hope the above ideas will help you turn them into advantages.