What to Do in a Job Where You're Not Valued

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant

I've been hearing from a lot of people lately who feel completely undervalued in their jobs. They use words like "under-appreciated," "replaceable," "a cog in the machine," and their hearts are heavy. It's a pretty depressing state to be in. You know you've got good ideas, you know you can contribute more, but you feel stifled. Overlooked. Dismissed.

The creative energy you had when you started the job dwindles over time, and soon enough, you notice that you're complicit in all sorts of silly practices and policies that you scoffed at when you first came on. You stop trying. You figure no one will listen anyway.

It breaks my heart to hear from people who are in this situation, because I can see how disempowering it is. It makes them forget that they're gifted, that they have agency over their lives, and that things can change.

When I think about this issue, two questions pop into my mind:

Is it true that you're not valued? and...

What beliefs and behaviors have gotten you to this point?

These are the questions I want to answer today in this post, and I offer up these thoughts from a place of wanting to leave you, dear reader, empowered.

I want to remind you that you are inherently valuable, no matter what, and that you are a badass grown-up who gets to decide where, how, and why you contribute your gifts.

So, question number one: Is it true that you're not valued?

It might be.

There are a lot of organizations looking for modern-day factory workers who will simply put their heads down and do the work. In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin writes:

"Most white-collar workers wear white collars, but they’re still working in the factory. They push a pencil or process an application or type on a keyboard instead of operating a drill press…But it’s factory work.

It’s factory work because it’s planned, controlled, and measured. It’s factory work because you can optimize for productivity. These workers know what they’re going to do all day - and it’s still morning."

It could also be true, however, that you're looking for appreciation when it hasn't been earned. If you're like me, then you grew up in a generation that was praised constantly. If we took a shit, we got a gold star.

megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant

That messes with our heads over time - we start looking for validation and accolades instead of focusing on the work and just enjoying it for what it is.

It may be that you're very much valued in your organization, but that you have different expectations for how an employer should demonstrate their care. If you're feeling that desperate urge to get the gold star, hold your heart for a second and take a deep breath.

Instead of focusing on what you're not getting from your employer, consider what about the work you enjoy and spend your energy there.

All that said, if it's clear to you that you are considered by the organization to be a factory worker and you want more, then it's time to go somewhere with people who can see and celebrate your strengths.

Question number two: What beliefs and behaviors have gotten you to this point?

A lot of people, myself included, believe that our outer lives are reflections of our inner lives.

If you believe you're not valued by the organization you're a part of, then I would challenge you to ask yourself if you value yourself.

Do you take your dreams seriously?

Do you trust your intuition?

Do you honor your strengths?

What are your answers to those questions, without any bullshit?

On the other hand, do you value the organization you're part of? Do you value the people around you and see them in their giftedness?

I'm not trying to spread guilt or admonish anyone for feeling undervalued, but I also don't buy into murky limiting beliefs that are more about us than they are about how we're treated by others.

The truth is that what we're looking for is usually something that we're withholding from ourselves or others. 

It's actually not your organization's responsibility to make you feel valued. You're the only one that can accept and foster that inherent sense of self-worth. If it's not already anchored within you, you'll grasp for it from external sources that can't ever truly fulfill you.

If you've been feeling really overlooked or under-utilized at work, the steps forward are relatively simple:

  1. Make sure you're demonstrating your belief that you and those around you are inherently valuable. Appreciate and show kindness to yourself, your co-workers, and anyone you encounter;
  2. Give the work your all and then let go of what you can't control;
  3. If it's clear to you that your gifts simply aren't welcome in the organization you're in, don't stay stuck in a cycle of complaining. Go out and find a community that's happy to pay you in exchange for the sharing of your strengths.
megan leatherman career coach human resources consultant

We have to become what we're seeking.

We have to become people who reject the industrialized model of working and who contribute work from our hearts - that's what's valuable.

You are so capable, friend. It may just be that you're buying into beliefs that are keeping you stuck. Or it may be that it's time to up-level your career and move on to a community where you can really blossom.

Either way, you are already valuable - absolutely, inherently, simply by being born onto this Earth.