Every worker wants to feel like they are contributing at work. Employees who feel their voice is heard are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. According to a 2016 report by Pew Research, about half of American workers get their sense of identity from their careers, and receiving no acknowledgment or feedback can be distressing.
Employees feel undervalued when they don’t get the recognition that they feel they deserve. Feelings of being undervalued at work are highly linked to an employee’s feelings of validation for one’s effort and achievement.
These feelings of being underappreciated at work can come from low self-worth or circumstances at work. Please take the following quiz to assess whether you feel valued at your workplace.
Do you feel valued at your workplace?
Signs of not feeling valued at work
1. You lack motivation or procrastinate at work.
Lack of appreciation for your work can lead to a sense of apathy. You may feel like not putting in the effort if it’s not acknowledged.
2. You resent your coworkers.
Maybe you're being compensated less, and doing less work. Or, maybe you feel that the boss favors them and their ideas over yours. Either way, this can lead to resentment, a clear sign that you're not feeling valued.
3. You don’t speak up in meetings.
Pitching an idea or making your point is hard. It’s tough if you keep getting interrupted or shut down repeatedly. You learn not to share ideas because your voice has less value than other people’s.
4. You struggle with creative work.
It's hard to do creative work when you feel undervalued. Inspiration and creativity thrive in a positive work environment, but when you feel like you are out of place at work, it's next to impossible to summon even an ounce of inspiration.
5. You struggle with managing resources.
Lack of appropriate resources is one of the ways in which a lack of appreciation can manifest. If you’re putting in your best effort but aren’t given the resources to execute your ideas, you may be undervalued at work.
6. You have not seen any upward movement in a long time.
Perhaps you consistently put in your best work and demonstrate actual, measurable results aligned with your organization's goals, but have not been promoted or even given a raise. If this is the case, you are likely not being appreciated.
7. You receive unconstructive criticism.
Criticism and feedback are crucial to improving at your workplace. However, criticism needs to be constructive and actionable. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to implement the required changes and improve. If your workplace isn’t setting you up for success, you may be undervalued.
8. You lack autonomy.
Your workplace needs to trust you to do your job well. If you constantly get micromanaged and receive pushback on everything you do, that is a sign of being undervalued.
Why do I feel so undervalued at work?
Every worker wants to feel like they are contributing at work. Being valued at one’s job is highly correlated with workplace productivity. Around 43% of engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. Our self-worth is highly tied to our careers, and receiving negative feedback, or worse, no feedback, can be distressing.
Employees feel undervalued when they don’t get the recognition that they FEEL they deserve. Notice that this has little to do with the actual measure of achievement and more about an internal sense of being validated for one’s effort.
At the same time, there are instances where employees go above and beyond but receive no acknowledgment or appreciation from upper management.
Therefore, the problem can be an internal one or an external one.
In many cases, it is likely to be a combination of both. Here are some examples.
It is essential to consider that when we work at something we love, we tend to worry less about recognition or reward. When we no longer like the work itself, we look to external factors for satisfaction.
Additionally, any time we do something good, our ego is 100% sure to take notice of it. We never fail to give credit to ourselves for doing work well. However, managers have many people and many concerns, so it is reasonable that no matter how good they are, they will notice and remark upon less than 100% of the good things we do. Thus, it will always be the case that some of our good work goes unnoticed.
Moreover, every time something goes wrong, and we miss a goal or commitment, we have a reason. We believe that we would have gotten it done if not for certain circumstantial factors. Even if we acknowledge the mistake or shortfall, we want our manager to empathize with the reasoning. We tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions.
Employees also feel undervalued if their manager is giving recognition in a way that is not meaningful to the employee. For example, some people want more money, others want public acknowledgment, and others want only private praise.
Finally, sometimes we get overly critical bosses, who always demand more or better work or play politics. It is one of the most challenging situations because so much is not in the employees' control. There could also be a mismatch of expectations between the employee and the boss about what constitutes reasonable work.
What do you do when you are not valued at work?
The first step is to understand what part of not being valued comes from your internal emotional state or external circumstances. Those are not mutually exclusive causes.
Identify Emotional Drives
The first step is to explore the feelings of not being valued. Try to focus on this feeling. Do any specific instances of feeling undervalued at work pop into your mind? What emotions were you feeling at that moment? Use this emotional wheel to gain better clarity into your emotions.
Many of us attach our sense of self-worth to our careers. Our worth as human beings depends on our perception of our competence and feedback at work. If we don’t perform well, we see ourselves as inadequate.
As a result, negative emotions such as shame, guilt, hurt, and anger arise within our minds. However, due to a lack of understanding of healthy emotional processing, we sweep them under the rug and look towards the external world for solutions.
After we have identified, processed, and eliminated the possibility of internal emotional reasons for feeling undervalued, only then can we start to explore the possibility of external issues. These may range from an overworked and burnt-out boss to a toxic work culture or mismanagement of resources.
However, we cannot act in the world without internal emotional work. With a clear, calm, and focused mind we will be able to accurately ascertain the cause behind our feeling of being undervalued and underappreciated at work.
Ask for Feedback
If your manager is giving you recognition in a way that you do not want, the best course of action is to talk to them about what would be meaningful to you. Not all managers can change styles, but those who can will then provide feedback in a way that works better for you.
One of the best ways to ascertain whether you are valued at work is to ask for feedback on your performance. It can be a difficult task because it opens you up to criticism and may make you feel vulnerable. It is essential to keep in mind that your work is not a reflection of who you are as an individual. Your work can change over time; it can improve or get worse. But you as an individual have worth that is independent of your output.
Schedule time with your manager to have a chat about your work performance. Listen carefully, and don’t try to counter their points. There are two possibilities:
- If the feedback is valid and points to accurate gaps in your skills, knowledge, attitude, or work experience, the next step is to figure out how to work on those aspects.
- If the feedback is not valid and does not accurately reflect your work, then the real problem is the negative perception of your work. The next step is to figure out how to change this perception.
If any of these two outcomes come to be, your value at work will increase. However, the next step is crucial to ensure that your value at work increases in the right direction.
Align your Goals and Values
To get more appreciation at work, you need to align your daily goals with the goals and values of the company. If you are putting out work directly furthering goals set by your manager and thus by the company, you are on the right track.
Again, one of the best ways of doing this is to ask your manager about current goals. What does the company want to prioritize? Then, evaluate the tasks you need to carry out to get there. Ensure that your work is measurable so that your manager can present data to their supervisors and attribute appropriate credit.
Learn to Prioritize
One of the workplace's biggest challenges is knowing what work to prioritize. If you are pro-active, you always have work that needs completing. However, it is key to prioritize tasks aligned with the company's goals. That will increase the value of your work exponentially.
There are plenty of tools and resources on how to prioritize at work. One of the most effective tools is called the Eisenhower Matrix. Use this to figure out:
- Tasks that are urgent and important, and need to be done now.
- Tasks that are important but urgent can be put off.
- Tasks that are urgent but not necessary can be safely delegated.
- Tasks that are not urgent or important can be eliminated immediately.
Also, keep in mind that delegation and automation are viable options. If you take a little more time to automate a task that takes up time every month, then that is a worthy investment.
Similarly, training another person to handle one of your tasks is also worth the effort in the long run.
Once you start to prioritize your tasks, your productivity will increase exponentially, which will create the value of your work on paper and in the eyes of your direct supervisor.
Going the Extra Mile
According to a study from Workhuman, 80% of HR leaders believe employee recognition is crucial for organizations. Going the extra mile at work is one of the most time-tested and proven strategies to get recognition, praise, and advancements. However, the extra mile needs to be recognized to gain those benefits. It is no use if you constantly push yourself and your work does not get recognized because it was not in line with the organization’s goals or was not measurable.
Many employees will build up resentment when their sacrifice isn’t noticed or appreciated. Try to ask yourself the following questions:
- What tends to happen when you go the extra mile?
- Does your boss notice when you slack off vs. go the extra mile?
- How do you feel about going the extra mile?
Once you process your resentment, you will be able to approach work calm, cool, and collected. You will be able to advocate for yourself, and your tone will be one of confidence and value.
If your work does not get noticed, devote resources towards other goals. Specifically, focus on tangible goals.
Communicating Effectively with your Supervisor
It may surprise you to learn that most managers do not get any formal training in the art of management. As a result, they learn by practicing on you. Even business degrees do not have many classes on managing people. They primarily focus on subjects such as finance, marketing, etc.
To communicate effectively with your supervisor, you need to figure out their managerial style.
Bosses come in varied forms. This variance exists because
- Bosses have different personality types, much like other human beings. They can be introverted or extroverted, detail-oriented, or focused on the big-picture.
- The company culture strongly influences the kind of boss you are likely to have. Companies like Whole Foods and Starbucks are known for their employee focus and reward a culture where employees care for each other. Therefore, bosses in those organizations are likely to be caring, understanding, and kind, unlike companies that are laser-focused on hitting sales targets.
No boss is purely one of these. Depending on the situation, a boss may switch from one of these types to the other. However, most of the time, your boss will have a dominant style that will reflect one of these types.
Should I Quit if I am not valued at work?
Nearly 75% of people quit their jobs because of their bosses. However, the communication strategies listed above can allow us to re-evaluate a decision to quit. Before you decide to switch jobs, here are some things to consider:
Is the feeling of wanting to quit solely due to your job environment?
Often, mental wellness challenges such as a lack of self-worth, anxiety, or depression can manifest as apathy or dissatisfaction at work. Even if you quit this job, those feelings will follow you to your next job. Therefore, it is vital to work on those before quitting.
Are you getting enough feedback? Is the feedback valid and actionable?
Are you able to make and execute a plan based on the feedback? If you have gotten actionable feedback from your manager, attempt to work on that before quitting.
It is worth noting that quitting may be warranted in some situations if management cannot address the situation adequately. Examples include sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, racist abuse, etc. There are no skills to build or feedback to consider in this situation. The priority needs to be switching to a safer environment. 79% of employees would refuse a higher-paying job from a company that failed to act against sexual harassment.