Ask employers what they value in their staff, and they will reel off traits such as “high achieving” and “hard working”. But when it comes to actually valuing such qualities, employers seem to be falling short: 65% of American employees say they have received no recognition for good work in the past year.
If you’re a member of this unappreciated majority, you’re probably feeling frustrated. After all, working hard is hard work, and when your efforts aren’t valued it can be difficult to stay motivated. Moreover, when promotions, pay rises and other benefits are linked to performance, the fact that nobody is recognising your achievements can be detrimental to your career prospects.
Luckily, there are ways to increase the amount of recognition you receive. Next time you’re feeling unappreciated at work, try implementing the following steps:
- Be Your Own Cheerleader
Chances are, your boss and colleagues are busy people. Consequently, they are unlikely to be aware of everything you do on a day-to-day basis, and may not have personally observed many of your successes. Stop expecting them to be psychic, and bring your achievements to their attention.
Many people shy aware from doing this because they think it’ll be perceived as boasting. But as long as you get the tone and delivery right, you’ll come across as confident, not arrogant. When you’re debriefing a project, for instance, talking about how you overcame problems and which aspects of your efforts worked well is constructive as well as self-congratulatory. Similarly, if you receive a complimentary email from a client or colleague, you should ask them if they mind passing the feedback onto your boss (or forward the email yourself).
- Accept Compliments
Think back to the last time someone complimented you on something. How did you react? If you brushed the comment off – “it wasn’t that big a deal”- or reflected the compliment back – “it was all you/Sandra really”- then you are a compliment-dodger, and you need to stop.
Women, in particular, suffer from a societal pressure to appear modest, which leads them to reject up to four-fifths of the compliments they receive. But by doing so you a) discourage the compliment-giver from extending praise again, b) disavow your own achievements in the eyes of others. So, the next time someone compliments your work, try responding with sincere appreciation: “Thank you for saying that, it’s amazing to have my hard work recognised.” You’ll feel good, and they’ll feel good for making you feel good. It’s win-win.
- Set Up Regular Reviews with Your Boss
If you don’t currently have regular catch-ups with your manager, take the initiative and set them up yourself. During these meetings, ask your boss to help you set quantifiable targets and KPIs. By laying out expectations in advance, you can better highlight the great work you’re doing when you hit and exceed your targets. Moreover, these regular reviews give you a platform from which you can showcase your achievements to your boss.
A good manager will use your sessions to give you candid feedback on both your strengths and weaknesses. Because the meetings will push your boss to regularly reflect on your strengths and successes, your manager is likely to become more appreciative. But discussing your struggles and shortcomings is also a path to praise if you take that feedback on board and work to improve them. If you can show progression week by week, you’ll make a highly positive impression on your boss.
- Recognise Others
Before you bemoan the lack of appreciation doled out by those around you, take a second to assess how much praise you give out on a daily basis. Taking the time to notice and recognise the efforts and achievements of your peers isn’t just the right thing to do – it can also kick-start an appreciative culture where praising others for great work becomes the default.
The one simple rule to remember when admiring others is this: be sincere. If you swan around handing out compliments like candy people will simply write you off as a sycophant, and your praise will stop holding any value. Instead, look out for those times when your colleagues do go above and beyond and produce really stellar work. Emailing their boss, with your peer cc’d in, is a particularly powerful way to provide positive feedback to someone.
Beth Leslie is a career and lifestyle writer. She is also the editor of the Inspiring Interns blog, which gives graduate careers advice to career starters.