It’s Not You – It’s Them: What To Do When You Feel Undervalued at Work

iStock_000016936230XSmallBy Cathie Ericson

The boss doesn’t appreciate what I do. I am not getting paid enough. I am twice as smart as John, and he is getting better assignments.

Any of these thoughts ever go through your head? Undoubtedly, because according to the American Psychological Association, almost half of employees feel undervalued at work.

The Energy Project partnered with Harvard Business Review to find out what most influences people’s engagement and productivity at work. They learned that employees are vastly more satisfied and productive when four of their core needs are met: one of which included feeling valued and appreciated for their contribution.

In fact, they found that feeling cared for by one’s supervisor had a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader — employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 67 percent more engaged.

Do you need a value reboot? Here are five things that you can do to increase your value quotient.

1. Remind yourself of the good job you do. Then remind others.
You know those affirmation emails you receive from clients who say they “couldn’t have done it without you,” or from your supervisor, who mentions in a meeting what an integral asset you were in an important new business meeting? Bask in the glow, and then keep those little nuggets tucked away for when you need to shine. Start a kudos file for yourself, where you retain the positive reinforcement you’ve received from clients and colleagues. Read through it when you need a boost, and don’t forget to print them out for meetings with your boss. Routing copies of affirmative emails from clients to keep your boss in the loop lets her know that you are valued by those who matter most.

2.Toot your own horn.
Women in particular sometimes have a hard time speaking up in meetings, or correcting others who take recognition for their work. In fact a study by BYU and Princeton shows that in most of the groups they studied, the time that women spoke was less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal discussed four “negative” personality traits that actually aided people in a work setting. One of them, narcissism, has been shown to be an asset in the workplace:

“For instance, people with narcissism, who want to be the center of attention, often make a good first impression on clients and bosses, says a 2014 review of more than 140 studies on people with mild, or “subclinical,” levels of dark personality traits.”

And narcissists are not shy about speaking up in meetings, pitching their ideas – or claiming credit whether they deserve it or not. By not seeking the spotlight we deserve we pay the price in terms of how others perceive us and the value we bring.

3. Assess what would make you feel valued.
It’s different things for different people so you have to determine what your currency is:

Is it a flexible work environment? One study found that more than 42 percent of working adults were willing to give up some percentage of their salary for more flexibility at work.

More support? Having an assistant to delegate tasks to can make your time at work feel more efficient and that the work you are doing is task-oriented, not just busy work.

More public acknowledgement? Donald Peterson, former chairman of Ford Motor Company, once said the most important ten minutes of his day were spent boosting the people around him. If your boss doesn’t behave the same way, let her know. A 2005 study by New York research group Catalyst found that women leaders are typically judged as more supportive and rewarding, which might be because that’s the style they themselves prefer.

More money? Feeling you are being paid adequately can make up for a host of other job issues. And companies realize that sometimes they need to offer raises more frequently. Always go into a negotiation knowing how much your position should pay, and tie your request to concrete results. If they can’t offer money, ask for perks, such as a bigger expense account, more vacation time or other non-monetary reward that is meaningful to you.

4. Set up an appointment with your supervisor to discuss changes you need to see.
The ball is in your court when it comes to letting your supervisor know what will make you feel valued. Set a meeting and come armed with background on your value to the team – concrete figures of your recent contributions. This is where you pull out that kudos files and reinforce the value that you bring to the team, both colleagues and clients. Clear proof of the contributions you make are what will make your supervisor see the business case for meeting your needs.

5. Take care of yourself.
Most full time workers spend at least a third of their life at work – so it’s surely an important part of who we are. But, we also spend 2/3 of our lives not at work. So even when you are dealing with workplace stress, or the feeling of being undervalued, don’t let that bleed into your relationships or cause you to neglect the parts of your life that can make you feel more positive.

Make sure you take regular breaks. The Energy Project/Harvard Business Review study found that employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being.

Spend time with family and friends. Make sure you have unplugged time every day to spend with loved ones which can help add perspective to your career.

Make plans for something to look forward to. Sometimes getting out of the office on a Monday night for a yoga class with a friend, heading out for a hike on a Saturday or a weekend getaway every other month is just what you need. Having something to anticipate can add balance to your life.

The bottom line? No professional should feel undervalued. Taking steps to remedy the issue – and reminding yourself of your own great qualities in the meantime, can make your workplace one where you get the credit you deserve.