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6 Things to Do When You Feel Undervalued at Work — Bright Space Coaching | Leadership Development for Women in STEM

(Last Updated On: May 9, 2021)

Last Updated on May 9, 2021 by Admin



The Covid-19 crisis has wreaked havoc on the lives of working women.

Women, especially mothers and women of color, have been hit hardest by the crisis, and many women have lost jobs or left jobs because of the pandemic.

In fact, female workforce participation has already dropped to 57%—the lowest level since 1988, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

And, according to the 2020 Women in the Workforce Report by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce due to Covid-19.

The desire to leave the workforce can be especially sharp if you’re feeling undervalued at work.

It makes the decision to leave that much easier.

Women are important drivers of the economy, and the impacts we’re feeling from this mass exodus have the potential to erase the progress we’ve been making toward closing the gender pay gap.

While much of the onus is on companies to improve the workplace for women, your job and your performance will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, so it’s up to you to you to create the experience you want at work.

If you don’t address the things you’re struggling with in your current role, they’ll follow you to your next role.

So, before you start updating your resume, take a step back and take stock of your current situation.

Is there anything you can do to make things better for yourself?

If the answer is yes, keep reading.

 

Here are 6 things you can do when you feel undervalued at work:

1. Identify your strengths

Are you living up to your potential? Do you have a chance to use your strengths every day at work? Do you know what your strengths are? Does your manager know your strengths? 

Chances are, if you’re feeling undervalued at work, you may not be using your strengths to their fullest capacity. According to Gallup, people who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job.

“A strength is a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energizing to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance.” – Alex Linley 

Your strengths are the skills and experiences that strengthen you, the ones that keep you energized, and the ones that feel effortless to you. When you have the opportunity to use your strengths at work, you’re more likely to feel productive, engaged and satisfied.

Instead of trying to “fix” your weaknesses or focusing on the tasks and skills that drain you, focus on building and honing your strengths. Then, you can identify the parts of your job that allow you to use your strengths each day, and the parts that don’t.  

It can also be helpful to identify your team’s strengths so you can leverage each other’s talents. When working with a group, if each person is encouraged to use their strengths, the team performance increases, collaboration improves, and both individual and team engagement can skyrocket. When you see other people using their strengths and seeing great results, it can help you recognize your own strengths and contributions. 

To identify your strengths, start with an assessment like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, or a free test like HIGH5. When you take the assessments, you’ll receive a report with your Top 5 Themes (or strengths). You can read the descriptions to better understand each of the themes, highlight the words or phrases that sound most like you, and cross out the words and phrases that sound least like you.

Then, grab your journal and write about how you use each of these strengths at work. For example, if one of your strengths is Strategic, what projects or tasks allow you to express this strength? Where are you able to see patterns and recommend paths forward? What projects allow you to analyze information to make better business decisions?

If you haven’t taken the StrengthsFinder assessment, you could complete the “Best Self” exercise I share when you take my free Feminine Leadership Styles Quiz. In this exercise, you’ll ask your friends, coworkers or mentors to tell you about a time when you were at your best. From there, you can identify the characteristics each of those stories had in common to form your top strengths and repeat the journaling exercise above.

Then, you could have a conversation with your manager where you share your top five strengths and how you see yourself using them at work. This not only helps your manager better understand you and your work, it also opens the door for conversations on how they can provide more opportunities for you to use your strengths, which can help you feel valued.

Related: How to Have Confidence in Who You Are

 

2. Document your accomplishments

This serves two purposes – one, it shows your manager what you’ve been working on. It’s likely that your manager doesn’t know everything you’re doing. They’re working on their own projects and priorities, and they trust you to get the job done. They need a little help understanding how you’re working and what you’re achieving.

This is especially helpful in performance reviews. Your list of accomplishments can help you accurately and authentically rate yourself, and it gives concrete examples of how you demonstrate different competencies at work. This provides your manager with a clear understanding of your performance and helps them rate you more objectively. 

The second purpose of this activity is to help you build confidence in yourself without relying on external validation. You know you did those things on your list, and that builds trust that you can continue to achieve great things.

We often move on to the next thing after achieving something, without giving ourselves enough time to reflect on and celebrate each milestone, no matter how small. By making a conscious effort to document every win, you’re gathering evidence of your success. This is also a great activity for navigating impostor syndrome, because you have documented proof that you’re great at your job!

To get started, create an “Accomplishments” folder on your computer. Start a new document where you can add the date, what you accomplished, and any other notes or feedback. Then, any time you receive an email with positive feedback or praising you for your achievements, save that email to your folder. You can also save copies of presentations or reports you’re proud of. Then, when it comes time to rate your performance, update your resume, or negotiate a raise or promotion, you’re fully prepared!

 

3. Ask for feedback

I know this is one thing most people shy away from, but feedback is a gift! Getting feedback on your work is so critical for your growth and development.

If you’re feeling undervalued at work, it’s an opportunity to start a conversation with your manager. Express how you’re feeling in your role and ask if there is anything else you can do to improve.

One way I like to ask for feedback is to ask my manager or team member to rate my performance on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is the worst possible performance and 10 is the best possible performance. If their answer is anything less than 10, follow up by asking, “What would it take for me to get to a 10?” This provides you with concrete examples of how you can improve your skills, learn something new, or contribute in a bigger way.

When you ask for feedback, your manager will see that you’re taking the initiative to continuously improve yourself. This is a highly sought-after trait and one that can’t often be taught. It can open the door for new opportunities or assignments, increased responsibilities, or career advancement. And, asking for feedback helps you feel valued because your manager is giving you their time and attention, and hopefully, insightful and actionable next steps.

 

4. Increase your visibility

If you’re feeling undervalued at work because you don’t feel that your work is being recognized by your manager or other leaders, try increasing your visibility. 

This will look different for different roles or organizations, but one way you can do this is to advocate for yourself and your team. Early in my career, I watched as my manager advocated for our team, the work we were doing, and how we contributed to the organization. He always went to bat for us, giving us high-visibility projects, advocating for additional staff, and allowing us to present our own work to senior leaders. 

I always felt valued and seen in that role, and I knew I wanted to embody that same leadership style when I led my own team a few years later. I had each person on my team take the StrengthsFinder assessment, and we worked through various activities together. This helped us get to know each other’s strengths and bond as a team, and it also helped me when assigning new projects. I knew if someone wanted to use their Analytical strengths, that I could give them a data-rich project. Or, if someone wanted to build upon their Influence strength, I might give them a project that involved a lot of stakeholder management.

Because I knew everyone’s strengths, I knew how to position them to be successful. This gave me further evidence to advocate for opportunities to put my team in front of senior leadership, to have our work recognized by the entire organization, and to contribute in more meaningful ways.

Another way to increase your visibility is to get involved in projects or events outside of your normal work. Volunteer for special projects or details, join an affinity group, attend organization-sponsored events. Make yourself known. No one will seek you out if they don’t know who you are and what you bring to the table. Instead, shine so brightly that they can’t help but look in your direction.

Related: #ChoosetoChallenge Impostor Syndrome

 

5. Find your purpose

Perhaps the reason you’re not feeling valued or appreciated at work is because the role you’re in is out of alignment with your purpose.

When you live in alignment with your purpose, you feel like you’re in flow. Your projects and assignments seem easier, the work feels more natural to you, and others can’t help but recognize the great job you’re doing.

When you’re out of alignment with your purpose, work might feel like a struggle. It might always feel like you’re pushing or forcing something, or striving to get your manager to recognize your accomplishments. It might also feel like you’re spending more time on tasks or projects that drain you. This goes back to using your strengths every day.

Part of finding your purpose involves understanding your strengths, but it also involves identifying your core values, passions, and skills. A big, and often overlooked, component of your life purpose is giving back in a way that feels meaningful to you.

If any of those feel out of alignment for you in your current work, or if your core values don’t align with your company’s core values, you may not be living your purpose in the role you’re currently in.

Consider who your customers are – who are you serving each day? Are those the people you want to serve? Is that how you want to spend your time or give back to your community? If so, how can you use your strengths to bring in more alignment? Or, could you ask for a new project or assignment that gets you closer to the people you love working with. 

If not, or if you’re not sure who you want to serve, a good next step would be to identify your purpose. If you need help with this, sign up for my free 30-Day Life Purpose Challenge, which walks you through 30 days of journaling to understand yourself better and identify your reason for being.

Related: How to Find Your Purpose in 4 Easy Steps

 

6. Consider moving on

Finally, if you’re reading this and thinking, “I’ve already done everything on this list and I still feel undervalued!” then it might be time to move on.

If you feel unappreciated for the work you do each day, you don’t have the opportunity to use your strengths each day, your manager doesn’t advocate for you or your team, and if your core values or purpose don’t align with your organization, then perhaps you’re in the wrong role or wrong company all together.

It’s important now more than ever to feel a sense of appreciation, satisfaction and engagement at work. If you’re not feeling those things and your employer is not making a conscious effort to improve the employee experience at work, it’s up to you to act.

Before you update your resume or hand in your two-weeks’ notice, take a moment to reflect on what you want in your next role. Beyond feeling valued, is it a job where you get to use your strengths every day? A company that provides a flexible schedule? A role where you can see yourself expanding? Or a company whose mission is close to your heart?

Take time to journal about what you’re looking for and what will make you feel valued and fulfilled in your next role. Then, it will be easy to spot job postings or positions that align with this vision you set for yourself. 

You spend the majority of your time at work, so you deserve to be in a role that challenges you, that allows you to grow, and that helps you connect with your purpose. You deserve a company that invests in you and provides opportunities for you to use your strengths. And, you deserve to live life on your terms.

 

The Takeaway

It’s hard to feel engaged when you’re feeling undervalued at work. You might not be able to control what your company does, but you can improve your experience by taking steps to identify your strengths, ask for feedback, increase your visibility, and find your purpose.  

Take action now: Start by identifying your strengths, then try one of the other actions in this article to improve your experience at work. Spend some time reflecting on the results to see if it made a difference.

I’d love to know what you do when you feel undervalued at work? Share your story in the comments!

Sign up for the free masterclass, Thrive Beyond the 9-5, where you’ll learn how to turn your strengths and passions into a thriving business. You’ll learn how to leverage your strengths, skills, and career experience to start a business that aligns with who you are, so you can get paid for what you already know – at double (or triple!) your current rates. Click here to sign up for instant access to the free training!



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