Feeling valued at work: Priceless or worthless?

Posted3/12/2017 7:15 AM
  • Feeling valued and respected continues to rank high in surveys about job satisfaction.

    Feeling valued and respected continues to rank high in surveys about job satisfaction.

Q: I like my job. The pay is good. The benefits are good. The problem is that I don't feel that my contributions or efforts to improve my skills are valued. I receive many positive comments from the customers I support but none from my supervisors.

I was recently passed over for a promotion for the second time. I was told each time that there was a better candidate.

I am trying to evaluate the importance of feeling valued as I decide whether to accept another job offer that would be less money and fewer benefits. I'm thinking that feeling valued is priceless. What do you think?

A: I think you can't pay rent with feelings. So if accepting lower pay and benefits means cutting into your must-haves -- shelter, food, health care -- then I strongly recommend you stay put for now and keep looking for a better offer.

Even if the other job would pay enough to allow the luxury of weighing more abstract needs, you should ask tough, skeptical questions about how you expect a job with lower compensation to make you feel more valued. Maybe it offers more promotion opportunities or more meaningful work -- but you need to confirm those maybes before you leap into a situation based on a vague hope of better days.

This isn't to say that your emotional goal is worthless. Feeling valued and respected continues to rank high in surveys about job satisfaction, and it's absolutely worth pursuing. I just think you'll have a better chance of achieving it if you tether your abstract needs to concrete solutions with a string of questions: How do I feel? What do I think is the main problem causing this feeling? What concrete benefits do I hope to gain by solving the problem? What specific steps can I take to solve the problem and win those benefits?

For example, let's say you're feeling undervalued because you haven't been promoted. Concrete benefits of being promoted generally include higher pay and recognition. Specific steps you can take to gain those benefits include seeking explicit feedback from your manager about what you need to be doing differently to show you're worth more pay and ready for more responsibility.

Ideally, your efforts will result in changes that make you feel valued at last. Less ideally, you may win promotion but discover that it doesn't bring the validation you're hoping for. And you may even discover that the problem is something more fundamental than a lack of promotion -- for example, that your manager doesn't support you, or that getting ahead in your workplace means adopting behaviors you don't agree with.

In that case, you have valuable, concrete information about the qualities you should be seeking in your next job, and you can act on those facts, instead of being hooked on a feeling.


PRO TIP: Even when funds for bonuses and promotions are limited, employee recognition programs can help boost morale by allowing workers -- or even customers -- to nominate exceptional colleagues for noncash awards. And extra PTO is always a hit!


Ask Karla Miller about your work dramas and traumas by emailing wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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