In this article, you’ll be fed with the means to overcome underappreciation at work. And if you’re quite keen on becoming a workplace MVP, this would help you. Work recognition (or lack of it) really is subjective. Don’t take it too personally.
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Attention: This appears to be a counter-intuitive take. Don’t puke!
Hey, you need not despair too much about this. A lot of folks do beautiful work but sometimes it seems your contribution gets lost in the flurry of collective input from the rest of your team towards achieving a goal. I mean an organization is like the human body (or whatever body that’s got life in it). It’s got any number of diverse, unique parts — each performing a specific and unique function. The assemblage of the unique parts and the totality of their individual “portfolio” makes a complete and functional body.
Applying this frame of reference to an organization, there are several or more departments comprised of subgroups of individuals (the circulatory system) and the singular employees — that is you now, say, an artery or blood vessel with its particularities and peculiarities. The point is, to anthropomorphize, no one part of the human body comes along — no matter how seemingly insignificant or imperceptible their functions — and says my work isn’t appreciated or heralded or celebrated and suchlike.
It’s like in the story of Sherlock Holmes, who uses his captivating deductive and analytical chops —which he draws upon to solve mysterious cases. Watson, his supposed sidekick, is as much a problem solver as Sherlock. Watson’s seemingly rather, arguably dull faculties do not preclude his immense contribution to Sherlock’s intriguing machinery of deduction.
Your organization was established presumably to achieve a goal probably by way of solving certain complex problems, “complex” is the keyword here. Solving a complex problem often requires a system of components (which could be linear or otherwise) and at each point, either the overarching problem becomes much more simplified or diminished (kinda like a sleepy fisher dropping a fish bait in a body of water, and fish taking turns at nibbling away the chum until there’s nothing left of the bait), sort of in that sense. Hopefully, this “fishful thinking” serves its purpose.
Furthermore, you need not expend precious mental energy at the thought of your perceived lack of recognition but rather channel your strengths to doing the best work possible and not expecting anything for it, as long as it causes you no strain and gives you a sense of satisfaction and glee.
You’re not any more important or more equal than anyone else and you were hired to help address a challenge at your organization. Why? because the hiring manager considered your level of expertise good enough for the role. Your colleagues are probably as skilled as you are in their own right, a few may even know more than you do (but aren’t necessarily better), and there are always insights to be shared amongst your team members. I’d rather you seek out colleagues with deeper experience and spend time learning what you don’t know than the yearnings for ego-soothing gratification that swell your sense of self-worth at the expense of your ability to observe the smaller things (that often makes or breaks history).
I think you’d be better off if you prioritize your contributions (and I mean actual, quantifiable, and top-tier work) towards whatever is the aim of your team and by extension, your organization. You might want to consider doing noteworthy work without seeking recognition and inspiring the rest of your team without seeking work recognition.
Narcissistic folks exalt themselves, you should, rather, allow your colleagues to deem you worthy of appraisal and you may benefit from the hype that attends it. If you want to make headlines or get featured on the front pages of a tabloid, go found an airline. As long as your actions advance the cause of your organization and perhaps set interesting standards.
What you can do
If you feel you're not getting the recognition you deserve at work every once in a while, below are a few tricks that can help you in your journey to office stardom:
First, take a step back and make a list of all your recent achievements. Was it above and beyond what your colleagues are doing? Then ask yourself whether your feelings are valid. Maybe you are valued but aren’t receiving as much feedback as you need. You may seek a second opinion from a mentor or colleague on whether the amount of appreciation you expect is realistic.
Increase your visibility
Seek out means to illuminate what you and your team are doing. The most obvious way is to speak up more during meetings. Volunteer to represent your team at events or on planning committees. It’s a great way to give you additional exposure outside of your job commitments. And don't forget to praise others! Recognizing your colleagues' achievements will not only help increase your visibility but will also improve overall performance and increase employee productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.
Try to be self-motivated
You shouldn’t always depend on external validation to stay motivated. To achieve lasting career fulfillment, you need to find meaning in the work itself. Effective self-motivation is one of the top things that distinguishes high-achieving professionals from everyone else. So how can you keep pushing forward despite not getting adequate appreciation at work? Make an effort to pat yourself on the back regularly. Schedule time each week to reflect on your wins.
Focus on the elements of the work that you enjoy and set specific goals. Once you achieve a milestone, reward yourself. By celebrating small wins, you’ll be more likely to set yourself up for long-term success.
Consider a change
If you’ve tried everything and continue to feel unappreciated at work, it may be time to consider a job or career change. A lousy manager or toxic work culture can be challenging to overcome. And if your boss refuses to acknowledge your accomplishments, it may be difficult to advance professionally? Consider what you may be giving up by staying and looking at alternative paths. Making a change could benefit your mental health and well-being in the long run.
In sum, whether you’re made the “MVP” every week or not is immaterial. An employee can get all the accolades and still feel miserable. What I think you should care about is the impact of your work, your career goals, and your personal fulfillment. If anything gets in the way of any of this, simply pitch your tent elsewhere. Recognition can eat the grass. See ya!
More on work recognition: 5 easy ways to get motivation at work