What to do when you don’t feel valued at work
No fun. It’s like when you were in elementary school, and kids were being picked for teams. And you got picked last.
Or like when you’ve been “left out in the cold.”
Ouch. That hurts.
Have you ever felt like you’re not valued in your company? Or in your career in general?
- Sometimes, we don’t feel valued because we sense that people aren’t listening to us.
- We can feel devalued when we’re not chosen for high-visibility projects.
- You might feel less than valuable when someone else gets the promotion that you’d be seeking.
I’ve thought long and hard about being valued in your career. I want to give you some guidance to help you feel your value, any time.
First and foremost, if you’re not feeling valued by others, it’s important to be really scrupulous with yourself and ask, “How fully am I valuing myself?”
Often, when people aren’t valuing you, you are giving off the vibe of “I don’t matter too much.” That can show up in your posture, your movement, your facial expressions, and your tone of voice.
I’m not asking you to shift those outward appearances. That would be essentially cosmetic change. No, I’m asking you to go inward, because any changes need to take place within.
Be honest with yourself
I would ask you to be brutally honest with yourself in answering this question: ”Do you show up fully at work?”
In other words, where are you holding back?
- Do you think about taking risks at work, but then shy away from them?
- Do you want to speak up for yourself, but wind up silencing yourself?
- Do you put on a mask and hide your talents or your personality from your colleagues?
If you do any of these, it’s an indicator that you’re not fully valuing yourself. You don’t feel entitled to be yourself at work.
An activity to help you transform how you value yourself
If that’s the case, I encourage you to make a list of the situations and circumstances where you hold yourself back, where you question your contribution, where you don’t allow yourself to just be real and genuine, and where you devalue yourself.
Then, look at each item — and coach yourself with compassion.
For example, let’s say you tell yourself: ”I don’t take risks when I speak in front of the CEO, because he intimidates me.”
Your self-coaching might be something like:
“I know it’s scary to speak up in front of the CEO. He might question you. He might get really tough on you. It’s likely he’ll ask you a question that you can’t answer right then and there. But you could be like the VP of Marketing who holds her head up and says cheerily, “What a great question. I wish I had the answer on the tip of my tongue. I’ll need 24 hours to get that for you. In the meantime, what other issues do we need to discuss?” I can learn from her. In fact, I think I’ll go chat with her and see what she does to be confident in front of our CEO.”
Shift into a positive mindset
If you’re prone to devalue yourself, another way to shift that habit is to to pepper yourself with positive questions.
Your mind will wrap around any question. If you wrap it around “Why don’t people value me more?” your mind will go hunting for the answer to that question.
But if you ask a question like “How is it that people are valuing me more?” your brain will search for evidence that you’re being valued.
So, the question is, how do you want to question yourself? Positively, or negatively?
The choice is really yours. I do hope you choose the positive direction!
Tell others how you like to feel valued
When you’re not being as valued as you’d like, it may be that others simply don’t know what makes you feel valued.
Unfortunately, you can’t assume that your manager, your co-workers, your clients, or really anyone instantly knows how to show you their appreciation.
Just because you love praising people in public doesn’t mean that people on your team will automatically do the same for you. It’s not that they’re being mean, or withholding. They just may need some coaching from you, to help them know how you like to be valued.
A suggested conversation to have with your manager or co-workers
Set up a specific time to talk, so that the other person knows you’re serious. This isn’t something to leave to a casual hallway conversation, as it’s way less likely to be memorable.
“I want to talk about something that would make me feel totally great at work, and I think it will be pretty easy, and will cost you nothing.
You see, I thrive on being told where I’m adding value. Where I’m helpful. When I’m doing something useful.
Now, I don’t need constant strokes. But if I could get them more frequently, I’d really thrive. I’d have that much more juice and juju to bring to my work.
Would you be willing to share your praise and appreciation with me a bit more? (Wait for a “yes.”)
Super! I’d love to tell you how to share that with me in a way that will have a super positive impact. Are you open to knowing how to be most encouraging to me? (Wait for a “yes,” once again)
I especially like to receive your compliments when I do something that really makes a difference, like (and then share the kinds of examples from your work, with as much specifics as possible — like the dates when you’ve previously done something you think is praiseworthy).
You can also share your needs for comments and recognition in ways like this…
“When I do _____, I’d love you to say ____. ”
(For example: ”When I do a great job on the quarterly report, I’d love you to say exactly what you found most helpful in my analysis.”)
When you’re learning a new skill, and you’re improving, you might ask..
“As you see me getting better at ____, it’d be great if _____.”
(For example: ”As you see me getting better at serving client needs, it’d be great if you’d point that out and tell me what you heard and saw that you liked.”)
You can start to train the people you work with to give you what you need, in terms of feeling valued.
However, that doesn’t always mean that strategy will work.
Know when to move on
If you’re already valuing yourself and you’ve shared how you want to be valued, what do you do if you still don’t feel valued by the people around you?
It may be time to leave, especially if…
- People aren’t following up with you in the ways you’ve asked.
- You constantly feel disregarded and overlooked, and you’ve investigated reasonable reasons why that might be happening (for example, one of my clients, Beth, thought she kept being excluded from a series of meetings with her group, and wondered if she’d done something wrong. When she chatted with her manager about being left out, she asked very objectively, instead of imposing her bias that she was being intentionally excluded. It turns out that the administrative assistant who sent out the messages had accidentally left Beth off the list. She was re-added immediately).
- You are regularly humiliated or shame, especially in public, by anyone in management
- You’ve asked for an important change at work (like to have greater variety of assignments), but after months and months of requesting, it’s just not happening
It’s time to leave if you’re not getting traction after you’ve explicitly ask to be valued the way you like, and you’ve also objectively examined whether your company can or will give you the opportunities you desire to share your value. Move on to another workplace where the culture is intentionally designed to help you feel valued. Yes, those cultures do exist.
You hold the key to your own value. Always.
Do you still need more help feeling valued at work?
Click here for a complimentary career consultation with me, Dr. Susan Bernstein.
We’ll talk about what’s happening in your work, strategize at least one next step, and explore a potential coaching relationship.
Let’s boost your value. Soon.