In my first job, at the end of every day my manager would say to to each of us “thank you for today”. I think at the time I questioned why she made that effort, but I knew from this small gesture I always felt valued. When I managed my own teams, I made sure that I ended each day the same way, “thank you for today”. It’s a simple way to acknowledge that people showed up for you and the business. But often appreciation and gratitude is overlooked, even at this festive time of year.
It's common at the end of the year to ask yourself "what am I doing all this for?”. You might be feeling pressured to meet tight deadlines before the holidays, and be asked to take on extra work commitments with no thanks. Work environments like this can make you feel undervalued and easily lead to resentment. Then rather than pushing yourself to do your best work, you put in a half hearted effort which can have a knock on effect on your professional development.
Here are a few ways to tackle feeling undervalued, and to find motivation and strength in other avenues.
Celebrate your wins
You should always be your biggest cheerleader, but it is easier said than done. Often we aren’t encouraged to blow our trumpets for fear of appearing boastful or not humble. But if you did good, you did good right? No, you don’t deserve a gold medal every time you just about make into work (it’s called a wage), but anytime you successfully complete a project, meet a KPI or a target it’s worth noting it in a way that recognises your own achievement. Do whatever you need to say to say to yourself 'well done'. Treat yourself to your favourite food, a good movie, a great night out - at least give yourself a little fist pump! More tangibly, either weekly or monthly write down your ‘wins’ for that time period. Not only will you start to value yourself more highly, you also have concrete evidence of your achievements to show your boss in your next performance review.
Look around you
Is it just you with an increased workload or are resources across your team stretched at the moment? Has something changed at work, like a new manager? In both these scenarios, it could be that this is a temporary situation that will be resolved when a project is finished or the new boss settles in so it’s not always advisable to raise objections right away. During busy periods, being a good team member includes giving people some latitude and remembering that validation for our efforts don’t always have to come from others (remember, be your biggest cheerleader!). In fact, if you have designs on moving up in any organisation, the realistic truth is that the higher up you go the more that is expected of you with little to no recognition. But if you have been feeling undervalued for a while and there is no change on the horizon, now could be a good time to ask for feedback and support.
Being a good team member includes giving people some latitude and remembering that validation for our efforts don’t always have to come from others.
Ask and listen
Feeling undervalued is just that - a feeling. It is a perception that you are not appreciated by others, which can lead to more feelings of injustice and anger. These are rarely productive emotions to be holding onto in the workplace. Replace feelings with facts and ask for feedback from your line manager or someone else you report to. Go into such a conversation with evidence of when and where you think you have really excelled and get their take on your achievements.
You know the saying “no news is good news”? That can apply at work too. Not receiving praise may not mean your doing a bad job, but it may mean you have a manager who could improve their performance development and communication skills. Help them manage you better by using this conversation as an opportunity to let them know how you like to receive feedback.
If you don’t feel confident in speaking to your boss just yet, get input from your colleagues on their thoughts on your performance. In this instance, use your colleagues as a sounding board, but not a forum for complaints. We all moan about work together from time to time, but complaining with colleagues too frequently only serves to reinforce negative and stagnate attitudes rather than motivating you to take action. Together, take the chance to work on peer-to-peer mentoring. Support each other with productive conversations and raise awareness of each other’s achievements to others in the company. Give credit where credit is due, and you might be surprised how this can trickle through your organisation and create a positive habit that could be adopted by the rest of your company.
Find value outside of work
No, it’s not nice when your work goes unnoticed and yes, a little praise goes a long way. If speaking up or peer-to-peer mentoring doesn’t get the results you are looking for and your work environment doesn’t change you have a couple of options: accept it, or accept it and move on. Of course, it is not always realistic to pack up and leave. Financially, you might be tied to working where you are or personally you might not know what you what to do next. However if you are not fully invested in work, try looking for value outside of your career. A sport or hobby can provide a lot of fulfilment, and volunteering with a charity may be a great way of spending time and energy on a mission that is both positive and impactful. You might even find focusing on these activities away from work provide you with the space to get clearer on what you want when you are there.
What do you think?