In my coaching practice, dozens of people pile into sessions each month with tales of feeling underwhelmed and undervalued in their careers and businesses. In fact, if I could boil job dissatisfaction down to a chief complaint—it would be feeling undervalued.
The people I see in my practice are super human. They lean in, they volunteer, they show up, they overdeliver and then repeat. There are no slackers here. So why, if they’re doing such a tremendous job, are they feeling undervalued?
The answer lies in our language preferences. In his famed book, The Love Languages, Dr. Chapman says there are five universal ways that all people express and interpret love. They are: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch. He arrived at these conclusions through over thirty years of research and counseling couples. Each person has a primary and a secondary language that they prefer to receive love in. I believe, that in the workplace, the same ideas hold true—though the languages differ.
Feeling valued is so important—it’s how we know we’re doing a good job and that we’re in the right place, surrounded by the right people. But just like with love, we all prize being valued in different ways or through different languages. What works for me, might not work for you. I believe that feeling valued in the workplace is about feeling valued in a language that is resonant with you as an individual.
I’ve boiled the workplace languages down into a few categories based on what I’ve seen with my clients as well as experienced first-hand. In my mind, those languages are:
- Ad-hoc: Written and spoken affirmation that you’re doing a great job that takes place regularly and outside a formal review process.
- Favorable Reviews: Beyond the thank you note or positive comments from bullet number one, this is a positive review that would have impact on your trajectory for growth.
Monetary incentives:Your salary, bonuses, tuition reimbursement and other monetary incentives you receive for your work.
Investing in your growth
- Opportunity:Preferred projects and initiatives that would support your growth and development as well as being considered for leadership opportunities.
- Development:This could be informally through mentorship or investing in you as an individual through continued education, coaches, leadership training and more.
Rewards & Perks: These are other tokens of appreciation for a job well done such as a dinner out, weekend getaway for hitting a sales goal, a massage, or tickets to a concert of sporting event.
Cultivating a healthy workplace:From massages, to healthy snacks to seminars on unconscious bias, cultivating a healthy and open workplace is a great way to show you value the people in your organization.
Demonstrating Trust:Trusting an employee with autonomy, unlimited vacation and other self-directed pursuits is a great way to show you value your employee and their choices.
When I’ve taken clients through the exercise of finding their language, I have them prioritize which languages they value the most. A good indicator of the languages we like to receive, is usually the language we give. For a job well done, do you take your team out for dinner, send an organization-wide note of praise, or give spot bonuses? Pay attention to how you express value to others on your team as that might be an indication of your language.
When we are feeling undervalued, it’s often because there is dissonance between the way we like receive validation and the way it is being expressed in the organization. Just like with the love languages, communication is key. Being clear on the way you like to receive and express value and sharing it with you manager will take the guess work out of you feeling supported.