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What you should do when you feel unappreciated at work

Take initiative and look for ways to turn things around. Here’s where to start.

What you should do when you feel unappreciated at work
[Photo: fizkes/iStock]

Everyone has a need to be appreciated. Yet most of us have, at some point in our working lives, felt unappreciated. In that you aren’t alone. A Gallup Poll found that 65% of American workers felt unappreciated. Feeling undervalued leads to a loss for yourself as well as the organization.

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For you, the results could be increased negativity, loss of motivation or morale, and for the organization, a loss of productivity. “We spend too much valuable time at work, so it is important to feel engaged and not report to work out of habit or routine,” says Judy Bell, president of Judy Bell Consulting  “If work is not intentional, we suffer along with our company.”

We also know that feeling unappreciated leads to increased stress and anxiety. Not feeling valued in the workplace has negative impact on our health overall. If you fall into the category of feeling unappreciated, you need to take initiative and look for ways to turn things around. Either things will turn around, or you may have to make a decision and consider whether the benefits of your job outweigh the harm you will do to yourself to continue working there.

Here are some things you can do when you feel unappreciated at work:

Check out your perceptions

Find someone who knows your work as well as what constitutes good work in the organization. A supervisor or manager who knows your work, but who you don’t directly report to but respect and trust, would be a good person to ask. Check with a trusted colleague to see how they feel. Don’t get caught up in a cycle of negativity and only talk to coworkers who are known chronic complainers. “Attitudes are contagious, so we must make sure we spend time and energy with people who are positive,” says Judy Bell. Talk to people who appear upbeat and positive. Don’t make assumptions about your boss and what you perceive as their lack of appreciation. They may be unaware of the excellent work you are doing, or may be under great pressure themselves from areas you don’t know anything about. Start with that assumption and go with it until you have evidence to prove it wrong.

Have a conversation with your boss

In this case, you need to be subtle. Prepare for the meeting beforehand by knowing what you are going to discuss and having a list of accomplishments fresh in your mind. Never say that you want more appreciation; rather, indicate that there are times that you don’t feel your work is noticed. If you are part of a team, mention the work of the team instead of focusing on your own achievements. Avoid confronting your boss or going in to speak when you are angry. It will only put your boss on the defensive, and this will not help your cause. Rather, ask for feedback on your performance. Indicate to your boss that you are looking for ways to improve and would like his or her help.

Make a point of recognizing others’ contributions

If you are part of a team, always ensure that everyone knows who created your team presentations and reports. Take a cue from classy professional athletes and give credit to the team when you get a win. Look for opportunities to praise others who you feel have done a good job in front of their boss and peers. This will create awareness of the need for appreciation, and there is a good chance that the recognition of a job well done will be reciprocated by those who have received it. Make sure that your appreciation is genuine, and don’t overdo it. If unwarranted appreciation is loosely tossed around, real appreciation quickly loses its effectiveness and value. In the best-case scenario, you will raise awareness of the need for appreciation in the organization, some of which will come back to you.

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Look for what went well

Many of us tend to focus on what went wrong. Even if five of six reports that were worked on received praise, we will focus on the one that we received critical feedback on. Instead, make an effort to look for what went well at the end of each day, week, and month. Make a list and post it where you can easily see it. Not only will it give you a positive boost, but will increase your ability to notice the positive, keeping your mind from going to the negative. It will also increase your ability to intrinsically motivate yourself, rather than waiting for outside validation. Look at this as a way of increasing your personal and professional value, which is independent of any job or person. Remember that all highly successful people have developed the ability to motivate themselves. Real fulfillment and satisfaction come from within, not from outside validation.

Consider the alternatives

It may be possible, even after everything you’ve tried, that the problem is a bad boss and toxic work culture that you will not have any chance of influencing. At that point, consider what you need to do. Are the benefits of staying where you won’t be appreciated worth it? Can you self-motivate and continue, or is the situation at the point that you need to move on for the sake of your mental health, well-being and self-respect?

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About the author

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, author and speaker. To take the EI Quiz go to theotherkindofsmart.com

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