That beaming smile!

I walked by someone at work today who happens to be the head of my organization (very high level in large corporation). He gave me a beaming smile. I was really taken aback. Typically I’ve gotten 0 acknowledgement from him even though we worked together on another project several months ago. When I see him, I say hello and acknowledge him and that’s what I did today but his reaction really surprised me as it was so different from previous encounters (pretty much ignored).

I’ve been working on a project that turns out to be a high profile project. And just had a recent breakthrough with the design (I’m the designer). It just kinda all came together for me and I came up with a great solution. Yesterday, I noticed there was an epic marathon meeting and though I wan’t included it was with all the people on my team (managers etc.). And it left me wondering what was going on.

Anyway today when I got the beaming smile, my first thought was, wow, my work on this high profile project is finally being recognized at the upper level. That felt great as I thought I was being recognized for doing great design work. My second thought was, he was coming on to me. And that made me feel like crap. I still don’t really know what to think about his beaming smile.

So my question is, do I just make myself think the first thought and then feel great, or do I believe the second thought, and proceed with caution. Its an environment (very competitive/high stakes, mostly male) where no one really plays their cards and everyone is playing it cool. Needless to say, I’m a very small fry in the scheme of things but my visibility could be elevated as this project is high profile and getting a lot of attention.

Btw, I think the work I do is fantastic and very creative and original. Its rare though that’s its recognized as such and when it is, it always seems like there’s a big political power play and maneuvering involved. And since I have no political clout, I don’t get the recognition I feel that I deserve since there’s always someone else (less creative/innovative higher up male manager, usually) that is willing to take the credit for it.

Anyway, I’m not sure how to navigate this situation where everyone is keeping their cards close to their chest, yet my contribution in terms of innovation is potentially pretty significant to the success of this high profile product.