Well-Being//

What to Do if You Feel Unappreciated at Work

First, take a pulse check. Then, take action.

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar: Your boss thanks each member of your team by name for their contributions to what became a recent company milestone. This is great, except she forgets your name. It stings, but you move on — momentary forgetfulness is, after all, a reasonable side effect of public speaking. Still, nobody likes feeling unappreciated at work. And there are some instances where being overlooked feels like a bigger deal. In certain workplaces, there could even be a culture of unappreciation: No matter how hard you work, it’s always there. At best, being overlooked is mildly frustrating. At worst, it’s debilitating. 

And it’s common. Only one in three employees in the U.S. recall being appreciated for their quality work in the last seven days, according to a Gallup workplace survey. Yet positive reinforcement is “one of the most validated principles in management and psychology.” When good behavior is acknowledged, it is more likely to be reinforced and repeated — which is exactly what managers want to happen when their team performs at a high level.

From a managerial perspective, there are plenty of steps you can take to validate each of your employees, from scheduling one-on-ones to encouraging them to take advantage of your company’s PTO policy. 

If you’re an employee who feels unappreciated, remember that you have agency in this situation, too. Though it may feel nerve-wracking, there are ways you can mitigate the side effects of being undervalued at work, and turn things around. 

Take a pulse check

When you begin to feel unappreciated at work, you don’t want to sit idly and just let things continue on as they are, but you also don’t want to act rashly. Before you do anything, confide in a mentor who knows you well, Doug Coffey, M.B.A., an assistant teaching professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, tells Thrive. “That helps you get a reality check as to whether you are overreacting to something that was said or not said.”

Prepare to speak with your boss

After you’ve taken a pulse check, and if there are a handful of recent incidents that made you feel unappreciated at work, you should feel empowered to speak — with compassionate directness — to your boss. During the conversation, Coffey recommends using “I” statements, and framing your concerns as an opportunity to learn. It should sound something like this: “I put a lot of time into my presentation yesterday, but it didn’t seem to be received that way. Is there something that I’m missing?” This language keeps your tone from becoming accusatory, which will increase the chances of your manager responding with empathy. Plus, there may actually be something you’re missing! The presentation you worked so hard on may have had errors, and knowing about them will help you course-correct for next time.

Consider a follow-up email

A follow-up conversation isn’t always necessary, though. If someone didn’t seem to appreciate your efforts on some work you produced, you can send them a brief follow-up email to see if your work was helpful, or if anything else is needed. “Even people who don’t often show their appreciation tend to appreciate the follow-up,” Coffey notes. 

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