There is a thin line between stepping up and being used, a line of which I am trying to ascertain the location.
Stepping up, of course, it that series of events that occurs when one is called upon to go above and beyond. It can be in the pursuit of a higher position or goal or it can simply be because one is suddenly called to greater efforts for a particular need. Being used, on the other hand, is that series of events in which someone else takes the effort and work and uses them to further their own goals, neither recognizing the effort nor respecting the one who performed it.
The difficulty is in the recognition of that effort. I can make heroic efforts believing myself to be in the spirit and practice of stepping up; others may simply see it (and use it!) as an expectation of what they wanted rather than a form of additional effort. Expectations, it seems, can be moving targets dependent as much on the person who determines what the actual target is as on the circumstances in a situation.
How do I resolve this? As I have pondered before, I am reaching a crossroads one way or the other in my career: on one road I restart a climb up the road to higher position (one which has been sorely delayed), on the other I become one of the "untouchables", someone who has been in a position so long that they become unpromotable, trapped in a position from which they can never escape. I want to step up of course, but in my mind I look back over the last period of time and wonder how much more I can step up than what I already have. Certainly there are areas that I can make difference in but those seem few and far between as my days are already full.
Or is it the audience? Need I play to a different crowd than the one I am currently dealing with? Perhaps it is not so much that my efforts are not enough as they are unseen. Sometimes much of what we do gets lost when we allow it to wander through filters not of our own making, through individuals who have a vested interest in making sure they look good - even if the labor comes from someone else.
Perhaps stepping up is not so completely a matter of effort as I had originally imagined. It is the combination of effort plus audience. And perhaps the takeaway is that if you desire a greater recognition of your increased efforts, play to a larger audience.