“I had worked my socks off, stayed late, sacrificed family weekends so that we could launch on time, within budget and getting the results. Not one person said well done, great job, it was almost as if nothing had happened. I felt deflated like it didn’t matter and wasn’t important. I started to question myself and whether I was doing a good enough job.”

We all have a need to have our contributions recognised and when we feel our input is being overlooked we can start to question whether we are good enough and ultimately whether we belong. Feeling unappreciated at work is a real problem for many and can impact our self-esteem and confidence and can lead to increased stress and anxiety.

So what can we do if we feel undervalued?

Looking carefully at a situation in which you're feeling unappreciated can help you get a clearer understanding of what's really happening.

For example, is this lack of appreciation a new thing and related to one activity? If this is the case when you relay the situation focus on the facts that you know and start to become aware of where you may be filling in blanks with stories. Did your boss know you were putting in those additional hours, did they know about the risks that you were managing. Have they really not said well done, isn’t there a team email in which they publically acknowledge the achievement of the team?

Are there any possible other explanations? For example what else has your boss been dealing with, do you know what is occurring in their world? Often positive feedback can be overlooked when people are busy, although it may be warranted, our natural tendency is to focus on what needs fixing, on the problems as opposed to what is going well, what has been a success. So even with the best intentions, your colleagues and manager might overlook and take for granted what you do.

Secondly, is this lack of appreciation from one person in particular? For example, do you feel you are not valued by your boss or one specific client you have?

If this is the case, consider if you are being treated differently from others. Although lack of or poor feedback is not an excuse, understand if this is a general problem people have with this individual enabling you to understand if this is in fact their problem and not yours. As much as we like to think we treat everyone equally we are human and there will be some people that we find easier to communicate with, or that we have stronger connections because we have known them longer or worked with them closely. Understanding if this is unique to you or a general challenge for the entire team can shine a light on how you react.

Thirdly consider are you being realistic with the amount of recognition you are after?

As we progress in our careers it does seem that the level of recognition we receive decreases. What can be useful is to run your own reality check. To 1) consider actually was your work way beyond what was expected and 2) are you seeking credit for something that is a priority? Recognition for doing the job is not the same as for going above the norm. Expecting recognition for something that your boss or client doesn’t see as important may be an indicator that you aren’t focusing on the right things. Are you being busy focusing on the things that don’t count? If this is feeling a bit familiar then your priority is about getting clear on what is expected of you so you can focus your energy and talents on what will make a difference, on what will get their attention.

Maybe these questions and points for consideration have made you realise that there is an over-reliance on others to make you feel good about yourself. Being overly dependant on other people’s opinions is always going to leave you feeling undervalued. You have no control over what other people think and feel and it is unlikely that you will ever know what they genuinely believe anyway. And perhaps more importantly you are likely to do things to please others, rather than what is right for you in search of this recognition.

If you feel that on reflection you may rely too much on external validation then it's time to work on your internal validation, on appreciating yourself and your own self-esteem and worth. To achieve lasting career fulfilment, you need to finding meaning in the work you do, you need to be motivated by it. How often are you taking time out to reflect and complete your own evaluation?

Having completed your own reality check if you still believe that there is a lack of recognition then it's time to talk to your boss about this and specifically ask for feedback. Avoid being critical of them and instead ask for specific details about what they consider to be your key contributions over the last period and what areas could they see you improving on.

Are you being a role model yourself and do you acknowledge the contributions of others when appropriate? Perhaps lack of appreciation is a wider issue and by you showing up and noticing the contributions of others you could start to be the catalyst of change in your organisation. However, a word of caution make sure this is used to the right amount and for the right things, not simply in order for it to be noticed and valued by others.

If you continue to feel undervalued and unappreciated by your company, it might be a sign it's time to consider a job or career change. The wrong environment and culture can make work incredibly challenging. Without the support of those around you, career advancement will be unlikely. Consider what it's costing you to stay. Making a change could benefit not only your professional life but your personal one and those around you.

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