Valentine’s Day is a time to show the person you care for that they matter to you– by giving presents, saying something thoughtful or spending quality time together. But what about at work? What happens when the person you report to stops showing you that your work is valued? Unanswered emails, postponed meetings, rushed conversations become the norm and you’re expected to be a “professional” and roll with it. That’s fine for a while, but what about when you find it too difficult? Keep reading to discover three gifts you can give yourself to fall back in love with your job. But first, let’s take a look at why everyone (including your boss) needs to know they are valued at work.
It’s Not Wrong to Want to Belong
Professionals do a great job of telling themselves what they don’t need. “I don’t need face time with my boss”, “I don’t need to hear I did a good job” and “I don’t need to be put on a special project.” Here’s the thing: your brain needs these and more. “Human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments.”[i] Whether we like it or not, knowing we belong is vital to our mental wellness and our ability to perform at work. “The need to belong is not a new idea…what is new, however, is the existence of a large body of empirical evidence with which to evaluate that hypothesis. If psychology has erred with regard to the need to belong…the error has not been to deny the existence of such a motive so much as to underappreciate it.”[ii] Professionals may act like they’re superman but it’s just not true.
When we go without proof we are valued at work for an extended period of time it can impact us greatly.
Three Tips to Love Your Job Again
If you are getting by without being told you belong, you have my sincere sympathies. It is a hard place to be but there are things you can do to make this time a bit easier.
Go on that work trip you are always “too busy” to take. Many leaders that I work with pass on opportunities to travel because they don’t have the time. “There is a conference I have always wanted to attend because it has all of the industry innovators in one place. I’d love to go. Well, maybe next year.” Why not make this the year and send the message to your brain that you’re going to attend the conference because you belong there? Professional development budgets are created to be spent. There is no reward in not investing in yourself. If you have the ability to take a legitimate work trip that will offer a tangible benefit to you and your team, get going.
Ask for what you really want. One of the best ways to know you are valued is when you receive a reward. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big gesture like “we’ve decided to give you a 20 per cent bonus” or small one like “great job on that project, can I take you out for lunch?” The real gift is social proof that you belong. So, why not make it happen for yourself. If your leader missed the chance to acknowledge an amazing performance, make a legitimate business case that outlines what you would like to see happen. Would you like to recommend a new policy that you think is overdue? Write your own, covering all of your bases and doing some research, and perhaps it will get adopted. Being offered what you want is ideal but getting it for yourself can still be pretty terrific.
Write yourself a work valentine. This sounds hokey but stick with me. It’s not often that you have the opportunity to slow down and take stock of your accomplishments. Sure, you may complete a performance evaluation, but I’m talking about a personal reflection on the value you contribute. This can include situations that challenge your resiliency – dealing with cranky colleagues, creating the same reports over and over or working without a leader in place. Take a few minutes to write down what you are most proud to have accomplished in the past year. It’s not the same as having it told to you but you deserve to have these positive thoughts be front and centre…even if you’re the one who put them there.
Everyone needs to know they are valued. Promote your own mental fitness and take care of yourself (body and brain) this Valentine’s Day.
Janet Hueglin Hartwick is a conversation coach, trainer and speaker. She is the founder of Conversations At Work, an evidence-based training program that helps leaders have more effective conversations with their staff and colleagues.
[i] Baumeister R. F., & Leary M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation.