feeling unnoticed at work? ask yourself 3 questions to learn why
By david sturt and todd nordstrom in Appreciation, Culture, and Insights
“I stopped trying,” wrote Leigh, a Client Services Specialist. “I took this job thinking that I could make a huge impact, but after two years of long hours, extra effort, and trying to figure out what makes my boss happy, I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care anymore. I thought I was hired because they believed in me. But, why try if nobody is going to notice?”
Those were harsh words to read. And, sadly, Leigh is just one of many people who have reached out to us with the hope that we could offer some advice on how they can get noticed at work. Tim, a Marketing representative, told us. “But, I don’t even know if my company and boss know what I do. I don’t know if they like my work or don’t.”
It’s probably not surprising that today’s workplaces don’t practice enough recognition—even though it’s the no. 1 thing employees say influences them to create great work. It may, however, be surprising to many of you reading this as to why people want to be recognized. “I don’t need an ego boost,” wrote Alexa, an IT professional, “…I just thought this job would be the place I could make a difference. I want to know that all the work I do is appreciated.”
Globally the sentiment is the same—employees don’t want to be recognized only because it makes them feel good. They want to know that their work is making an impact.
“I feel weird asking for feedback because it makes me feel needy?” said Gerome, a Fleet Manager. “But, it seems like the only feedback we ever get is when we mess up. I think we all know what NOT to do around here. We just don’t really know what TO DO.”
Whether it’s Mumbai or Minnesota, statements like Gerome’s are common. In fact, as we travel and teach companies about the power of appreciation at least one person approaches us after a speech or writes to us later to ask the question, “You taught me how to appreciate others, but how do I get my boss to recognize me?”
That’s a great question. It’s a question we actually asked as well in The Great Work Study where we analyzed 10,000 cases of award-winning work. We wanted to know what people are doing that is being recognized. And, although we discovered many activities that lead to great work, one surprising statistic we discovered was that 88% of projects that get recognized for great work begin with an employee’s desire to create a positive difference for someone else—a manager, a coworker, or a customer. That could mean easing a burden, delivering innovative ideas, solving a problem, or delighting someone with service.
We shared this information with our friend Tim, mentioned earlier. He appeared confused. “I’m never late,” he replied. “And, I often stay later than everyone else. I meet all the expectations. I meet my goals. What do guys mean by create a positive difference? How do I do that?”
We’ve developed three simple questions every person who feels they’re not being recognized needs to ask themselves.
1. Who is the recipient of your work?
Most employees believe that their primary job is to impress their direct supervisor. And, as important as that may be, it’s critical to realize that the biggest positive difference we can often make is on someone other than our direct supervisor. Maybe a colleague is under a tight deadline and needs some help. Maybe another department would benefit immensely by a small change you could make in the way you work. Or, maybe you could delight a customer to the extent that they are absolutely thrilled by your work. Even though your actions might not immediately make a difference for your supervisor, eventually your supervisor will take notice of how you made a difference for the organization or the team.
2. How are they receiving your work?
We often view our own work as the product we produce in our workspace. We believe it’s our job to sit at our desk, do what we do. But, research shows that employees who go see how their work is being received are 17X more likely to become passionate about the work they’re doing. We can see how our work impacts the recipient either positively or negatively and therefore can make adjustments to the way we work or the products we create. When you do this, your boss will notice your passion and concern for the people who receive your work.
3. What can you change to make a difference?
While it may be true that nothing under our sun is actually new, we are all introduced to new combinations of old ideas every day. There was a time when there were no erasures on the tops of pencils. There was time when batteries only powered toy cars and not Teslas. And, there was a time when all watermelons had seeds. Looking at your work, the recipient of your work, and how your work is being received, ask yourself if there is something you could add or subtract that would make a positive difference for someone else. You might be surprised at how much of an impact small changes can make. And, your boss will surely recognize your results as well because work is considered 3X more likely to be called important when something is added or subtracted.
We all want our work to be appreciated. And, we all want to make a positive difference at work. But, if no one is telling us if we’re on the right track, we can feel confused and overlooked. Ask yourself these three questions before you approach your next project and watch what happens.
This post was originally published on Forbes.