“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” -William James
Usually, I would run into my friend at the gym. He was always full of energy, smiling, and lifting more weight than seemed humanly possible.
One day, I was leaving when I noticed him arriving at the gym. He was walking slower than normal with his shoulders slumped. His trademark smile was missing.
Though I really didn’t have time to talk, I asked him how he was.
“I’m good,” he responded, a bit too quickly and with an even less convincing acting job than he realized.
“Want to grab a cup of coffee and chat for a minute?” I asked.
We sat down at a table with our coffee. I’m not one to waste much time and jumped right to the issue.
“What’s up? You are clearly down. Why? What’s going on in your life?”
“I don’t know. The Preds lost last night.”
I knew him well enough to know that his hockey team losing a game was not the cause of his change in attitude. Here was a guy who would regularly bounce off of walls with his energy.
I didn’t even need to say anything. He could read skepticism in my face. If he missed it, I would recommend he check his vision.
“Ok. I just feel unappreciated at work. I turn something in, and I just get overloaded with more and more. Every once in a while, a little recognition would be nice. Maybe a bonus? Heck, even a beer would be cool.”
Appreciation. It’s what William James says is the greatest human need.
Stay at home moms (or dads): you know what this is about more than most. Thankless chores. Constant demands. And the world shows little respect for your efforts.
Reasons Your Boss Does Not Appreciate Your Work
There are many reasons you may be unappreciated at work.
Here are a few:
You’re not doing a good job.
You’re boss doesn’t realize the work you are doing.
Your boss is overworked and overwhelmed.
Your boss is a jerk.
Your boss isn’t skilled in recognizing others.
Your boss has childhood issues and needs therapy.
I shared with my friend some ideas for him to consider:
You should change your perspective.
More work may equal appreciation. Your boss may be recognizing your good work by giving you more work. He may not be expressing it in the way that you want to hear it, but for some people this is how it works. More work = great job! When you think of it that way, you may find ways to utilize this for your benefit.
You need to give to receive.
Most people are so wrapped up in their own needs that they miss the needs of others. Your boss is also a person. Maybe he doesn’t feel you appreciate him. Don’t think a position or title makes him immune. The appreciation need doesn’t disappear with a promotion.
You may need to ask.
It is perfectly acceptable to share your feelings. Say, “I am feeling a little unappreciated.” You can say it jokingly or serious. You may say, “Hey, I’m feeling unappreciated. That means you need to buy me a beer tonight to thank me for saving the team on this project!”
You may want to tell your boss how you work best.
I had one employee who was more motivated by receiving a “gold star” than anything else. Yes, the stars that kindergarten teachers regularly add to a homework paper. That employee gave me a sheet of stars and asked me to give him one whenever he did a great job.
That may seem ridiculous, but you can share how you work. In a performance review, take time to tell you boss what motivates you. If it is praise, explain to her what type of praise and what works best. “Remember last year when you wrote that email to the team and singled out my work? That was like rocket fuel for me.” Or, “I much prefer the quiet praise. When you pulled me aside and told me I how pleased you were that I saved the company that money, it made my day. That’s the type of feedback that really motivates me.”
Later in the week, I ran into my friend who was back to his jubilant self. Before I said hello, he was already telling me about a great conversation with his boss. His boss felt unappreciated, too, and they developed a system to support each other.
“I felt almost silly telling him this. But it worked.”
Appreciation is a deep human need. Be wary of someone who needs too much, who seeks it too often, or who is craving unhealthy or unwarranted attention. But, knowing we all need it, take time to think about what you need, what your team needs, and how you best function.
It’s a great conversation at performance time.