If feeling undervalued is fuelling your need for a career change, you’re not alone. A 2018 study found that around 46% of Australians feel underappreciated at work. This group also rated recognition on par with a pay rise as motivation for working harder.
Maslow’s classic hierarchy of human needs links feeling valued to being safe, to belonging and to having healthy self-esteem. Even highly intrinsically motivated people wilt without an occasional pat on the back for a job well done.
There are heaps of reasons why great work goes unnoticed. Some of these are tough to influence, a competitive culture or a manager who struggles to acknowledge or praise. But before you call it quits on a job where you’re underappreciated, see if you can change things.
Know what you need
Here are two questions to help you figure out what appreciation looks like for you.
Your answers should reflect your values and highlight your career goals. So they’re also a way to check if your job is still purposeful and engaging.
Which skills and achievements do you want to be recognised for and why?
Perhaps you’ve built a harmonious, high performing team, or delivered a project under budget and ahead of time, or come up with a creative cost-cutting solution to a gnarly problem. Review your past successes. What got noticed and what happened as a result?
Who do you want to recognise you and what do they need to see and hear about you?
Work out what matters most to your target managers, peers, and clients. If it’s solid back up in stressful times, are you ready to go the extra mile? If it’s fresh insights and creative problem solving, do you take credit when you deliver this? Who do you trust to cheer for you and champion your interests?
Getting noticed can be tricky. Nobody loves a bragger, but most of us respect a thoughtful, straight talker who’s done the homework. Be that person.
Speak up in meetings. Study the agenda and research the topics. Commit to commenting one or three or five times. Plan or loosely script your comments. Introverts I’m talking from experience. Other limelight avoiders, this works for you too.
Be practical and specific. Suggest, ‘offering a work placement to a graphic design student would enhance our community profile and get the website updated,’ instead of, ‘we need a more current web site.’
Write clear emails. Be renowned for reducing email Ping-Pong and saving time and brain space. Make it easy for your colleagues and clients to act by telling them everything they need to know. After you’ve proofread and before you press send, ‘be’ your reader. Could you do whatever comes next based on the information you’ve provided?
Offer to help. Be recognised for being curious and proactive and ready to venture off your patch. If there’s space on a project where you could build new skills, ask to get involved.
Appreciation is contagious. If recognition is rare in your workplace, complimenting your co-workers could spark a cultural shift.
While a simple ‘good job’ will raise a smile, specifics will tell a colleague you’re noticing their achievements.
Acknowledge small things that often get overlooked. Comment on a quick response to a request, a mistake fixed before you spotted it or skilful handling of an awkward moment.
Tell people who help you how much you value their particular expertise.
Be even-handed and generous in praising team results. Share the honours and appreciate everyone’s contribution.
Recognise people in ways that work for them. Some of us prefer a quiet comment, while others love public praise. Gifts and awards also have their place. Put ‘appreciation’ on the agenda for a team meeting. Talk about why it matters and what makes each of you feel valued.
Check your mindset
Lifting your performance in response to constructive criticism can also raise your profile. It is easier to raise your game if you have a flexible mindset that’s keen on learning to do things better. You’re focused on improving, so it’s natural to review your progress and adjust what isn’t working.
Falling short isn’t a sign of a flawed character; it’s a chance to do things differently. A flexible mindset helps you stay curious and open and optimistic. These qualities set you up to behave in ways that attract recognition.
Do all you can to be rightfully recognised at work. Self check and take on challenging feedback, be seen and heard and appreciate others. Give the job your best shot.
If your employers still fail to recognise and value you, your chances of a fulfilling future there are probably zero. It’s time to take your talents elsewhere.
By Jo Green, Career Change Coach
I know that when you find what you love, heart and soul, your life changes. I work every day with people who are reshaping their current careers, starting new enterprises or searching for a new direction. Basically I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead!
As a Careershifters and Firework Advanced Certified Coach and experienced career changer myself, I can help you figure out what fulfilling work looks like for you.
Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.