5 reasons you may be irrelevant at work

By david sturt and todd nordstrom
Engagement

Do you ever feel left out of decisions at work? At the departmental meeting, for example, maybe your team unveiled a new direction for a project, and everyone was excited—except for you. Why not you? Because, for some reason, you’re the only person who didn’t know about this new, and exciting, direction.

Blindsided, you wonder, ”Why did the whole team go ahead with a new initiative and somehow leave me out? After all, I could play a big role in the project. But when push came to shove, decisions were made without my input—and now I’m going along for a ride without knowing quite what I signed up for.”

Does this sound familiar? If it does, you might be irrelevant to your team’s decision-making processes and not even know it. We actually hear this frustration quite often from people. They feel lost. They feel undermined. And, more than anything else, they want to know why.

“I feel like it happens at every job,” Suzanne told us. “I can’t figure out why this happens every place I go.”

Suzanne was sincere with her frustration. She actually wanted answers. She shared her story with us that basically chronicled a long history of feeling totally irrelevant at work—under-appreciated, and almost invisible. But, when she asked us the question, “Is it me?” we started wondering, “well, it possibly is you.”

As researchers who study the role leaders play in influencing greatness in others, we must acknowledge that there are actually a lot of habitual behaviors that can make people irrelevant at work, and ultimately undercut their potential to make a difference. But, that being said, not all could be your fault. As we’ve talked to people around the globe, here are some of the most common reasons employees and managers give us as to why someone may feel irrelevant on the job—as well as tips on how you begin contributing in a real, meaningful way.

You don’t play well with others.

The simplest reason you’re getting shut out of important conversations at work? You’re not a good collaborator. If you cut people off while they’re talking, roll your eyes through meetings, or are always running late, you’re getting on the team’s nerves. Brush up on how to be a better coworker, and you’ll build both respect and trust. And over time, you’ll build up your relevance credo, too, so people want to come to you for advice and input.  “I was that person once,” said Doug. “It took me a while but I realized I wasn’t asking others for input, ever. When I did, they asked for mine.”

Someone’s stealing your thunder.

Is there a coworker who always gets the credit, even when you collaborate on an innovation? Brian Uzzi, professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management shares, “You can’t assume that people will notice the time and effort you put in” on collaborative projects. So, make your input known. On the next progress report, offer to present to the senior team, be the one to pitch the idea, and generally be more vocal and involved. Show how your input has been valuable and leadership won’t make the mistake of thinking you’re not part of the results.

You’ve got analysis paralysis.

If you often feel overwhelmed by decisions (too many options, but too little time!), you’re familiar with analysis paralysis. When you take your time weighing options, you’re only trying to be thorough and make the right call—but in most business situations, that’s not enough. You’ve also got to act fast to take advantage of split-second opportunities. So up your relevance as a leader and decision-maker by hacking your habits to beat your analysis paralysis. Make a decision.

The culture doesn’t embrace an attitude of gratitude.

Sometimes, it’s really not your fault at all. Look around. Are you the only one feeling irrelevant, or do your coworkers share your concern, too? If you’re not alone, your workplace culture may be to blame. If your team generally feels irrelevant, it may be because appreciation is not a part of your workplace DNA. Switch it up. Say thank you when people do a great job. Take advantage of appreciation opportunities HR offers. And incorporate appreciation into team events, meetings, and celebrations. Everyone will feel more relevant when they understand the difference their work makes.

You love to plan, but fail to execute.

If you volunteer ideas, make action plans, but fail to execute, you’re letting your team down. After a few repeats of this pattern, your team will learn to expect nothing more from you, and may write you off when it comes time to make real change happen. So, become trustworthy and reliable. Do what you said you would. Don’t commit to a plan unless you have the time and resources to make it happen. Keep your word—if you don’t, it will soon be considered irrelevant.

Have you ever felt irrelevant at work? Yes, it might be because of your own habits. If it is, own it and change. But, it’s not always your fault either as it could be that your workplace culture doesn’t recognize your value and input. Be honest with yourself about who to point the finger of blame. No matters who’s at fault, you have an option: settle for being left out of the important decisions, or become irreplaceable.

This post was originally published on Forbes.

Categories: Engagement

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