A frustrated reader wrote me about feeling upset that “my boss doesn’t value my opinion”. Now I’ve heard this same complaint many times – as well as things like “my boss hates me” or “my boss ignores me.”
While I don’t know if this was a man or a woman looking for help, I do know women quite often feel ignored and undervalued. But of course men also feel undervalued at work and have employers who don’t listen to them, no matter how hard they try. Luckily, there are things you can do to help yourself!
First … what does being ignored by an employer feel like?
That may sound obvious, but the very same circumstance to one person may feel quite different to another. Let’s say that you finished a project on time and your boss never bothered to thank you for the good job you did.
Or something was said, but maybe it didn’t feel like enough. One person might think nothing of that, since that’s what they’re being paid to do. Someone else might see it as being ignored or undervalued.
As for the boss, he or she may have noted that you did what you had to, but perhaps saves special thank yous for going above and beyond. For instance, if you had brought the project in ahead of time.
Or while doing what was expected, you came up with a suggestion that saved the company money or improved part of the process. Now that same boss might very well say thank you for that.
To complicate things, there may be gender differences
In their book Work With Me, Barbara Annis and John Gray talk about the very real gender differences between men and woman. And although there are always exceptions, they say that for the most part women need more communication. And when they don’t get it, they feel undervalued.
Women want to be invited to the game, and often don’t know how to ask for what they need and even expect. And as a result, they often feel left out and frustrated by the normal workings of the current business model, not that I think the current business model is right!
Questions I would ask you to help find some answers
1. My first question would be “what have you asked for?” (Warning: we are about to come painfully close to something you might find in romantic relationships.) Are any of you thinking “but I shouldn’t have to ask. I work hard and expect to be recognized for it.”?
=> If you can learn to leave that belief behind you (as right as it may feel), you will go far toward changing the way you feel about jobs and bosses in general.
2. My next question would be “what have you done for them that goes above and beyond what is expected as part of your regular job duties?”
3. And my final question (at least for now) would be “do you do enough PR (public relations) for yourself?”
What you can do to change things for yourself
If you’re feeling left out and undervalued, then think about what you can do to change things for yourself. Odds are if your boss doesn’t get it yet, she or he may never get it without some help from you. It’s your career … put some of the control back into your own hands.
- Look for projects to take on that are visible and will make good use of your perhaps less-visible talents.
- When doing what is expected, see where you can add something extra: complete things ahead of time, add attractive graphics to a report, go out of your way to make a presentation look special, etc.
- Make sure to let your boss know how things are going in a way that feels friendly and not needy. Add some chit-chat, but also let it be known that you’re making good progress.
- Ask for feedback! If you completed something and heard nary a peep from your boss, ask if it met his or her needs and also if there is anything you could have done to make it even better.
- Let your boss know you want to learn new things and take on new challenges.
- And if some of the feedback is negative, don’t defend. Listen carefully, ask questions to better understand what you’re being told, and then ask for suggestions as to how to do a better job next time. (Also ask for measurable goals, especially if you feel the feedback is vague or unfair.)
Think about any role you may be playing in not getting all you need, or at least feeling that way. This is NOT to blame you. It’s about the language of the workplace, where what seems obvious to one can be far different from the picture the other is getting. And if you’re waiting for your boss to change … well, that can be a long wait without some helpful prodding from you.
But all that said, if you’ve tried it all and still get no respect, ask yourself … is it time to divorce your employer? Sometimes it’s just the wrong fit with the job or boss. And as daunting as a job search can be, the feeling you get when you land in the right place will make it all worthwhile.
But before you jump ship, first see if you can help change the dynamic right where you are. It might just work. And that’s a skill you can take with you anywhere you go!
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