Throughout college, I held four internship positions. Each in a different field of study and each taught me invaluable lessons. I spent countless hours lugging kegs to office parties, researching only to have my work scrapped, and fighting to stand out in the pack. I was able to create a diverse resume and hone my business skills but not without a price to my emotional health. Throughout my years of working for little or no pay, two internships had one major thing in common: I felt vastly underappreciated.
If it’s been a while since you were an unpaid college student, you might jump to the conclusion that I was paying my dues, but I disagree. In any job, it’s not a task or title that gives a sense of purpose. It’s whether we feel that we’re contributing something of value. You can run your boss’s errands with your head held high if you are certain that he or she appreciates your work ethic. Conversely, you can have the highest paying job in the company and feel like no one acknowledges your efforts. Noticing the goodness of your team is no small feat.
Leadership gurus Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner wrote:
“We need to feel connected to others and, in turn, they to us, because greatness is never achieved all by ourselves – alone. Encouraging the Heart is the leadership practice that connects us with one another. It signals and documents that we’re in “this” together – whatever this project, program, campaign, neighborhood, congregation, division, and so on, may be.”
Feeling undervalued does nothing to boost performance. It is one of the most common reasons that a person grows to resent a job and eventually walks away. In fact, the more you forget to acknowledge your team, the more isolation you create. This isn’t just crucial for employers to understand. You can encourage the hearts of your coworkers or managers by expressing thanks and support for their contributions. Each of us has felt the sting of being passed over for a promotion or unacknowledged for our efforts. So, strive to be intentional with your compliments.
If you feel like you’re overworked and underappreciated, it’s time for a positive confrontation. Take the initiative to ask for a performance review. Approach the situation with respect, and show that you want to be noticed. It might not be your fault that they haven’t affirmed your talents, but there’s no excuse to nurse your hurt feelings and sulk. If positive confrontation doesn’t have an effect on the issue, it might be time to consider calling it quits.
Learn to give credit where credit is due, no matter your role, or your sense of purpose will crumble.