Do you feel undervalued in your role?
Updated: Apr 27
A common issue that I bear witness to is staff feeling undervalued. This is so saddening. Oftentimes, I am speaking with an awesome nurse or vet, who it would be a genuine loss to a practice if they were to leave. They’ve felt unappreciated for a while, and it starts to really get to them, they become frustrated and don’t know what to do. Sometimes, it gets to the point where they see no option but to look elsewhere. As a locum and a vet, I always tried to give positive feedback and say please and thank you; appreciation costs nothing.
If you're in the position of feeling frustrated with the above issues, I have some tips:
Value yourself and give yourself some credit. We all have a negative voice in our head that will jump in to throw a pity-party: "well maybe you aren't that useful after all". Ignore this voice, it has been incorrect so many times before, we all have one and we didn't choose it. Make a list of what makes you a brilliant vet or nurse, re-visit it, use it as evidence when this negative voice tries to input. We have all become so attuned to holding onto criticisms, we forget to savour the compliments; start writing them down. Speak kindly to yourself, appreciation starts at home. An improved self-worth will put you in a far better position to look at this situation more objectively.
Our brains are hard wired to progress on a "seek and you shall find" pathway via the Reticular Activation System. If you look for instances of being under appreciated, you will find them, and vice versa. Don't get caught into a spiral of events that starts with one thought, use the tips in the article to act usefully and not entangled in a thought spiral.
I’ve seen behind the scenes in clinics, practice owners have lots to deal with and often there is so much more going on than we ever realise. I’m not making excuses at all, but sometimes bosses get complacent. You’ve done a great job for years, and their mind is on everything else, rather than unappreciated - sometimes it’s benignly being taken for granted. Perhaps if someone external were to speak with your seniors, they would sing your praises, but you just never get to hear it. (Management: keep feeding back to employees!).
Think carefully about what would make you feel valued, when I ask people this, they often don't know and struggle to define it. It’s ok feeling undervalued, but it’s tricky when you don’t know the opposite. Would you want higher wages? More feedback? More breaks? Time in lieu?
Talk about it, this is so important. Leaving this festering breeds resentment and may leave you seeking an alternative position when this one could have been improved. As above, “seek and you shall find” mindset. You feel undervalued and focus on it, all you find is undervalue. It’s tough, but arrange a meeting with your supervisor. Be armed with what you contribute to the practice. Be pro-active in finding a solution, so many times we are pre-programmed to think only of the problem.
Be prepared to calmly see and acknowledge both sides in a meeting; "I know that you have been very busy recently, but I really feel undervalued at the moment for XYZ reasons". Be calm, and respectful to all involved. You know your worth, you know your outcomes, accept and request feedback. Take everything on board and don't make rash decisions based on what the negative voice in your head is saying.
You’re not a tree. If you’ve taken this reasonable approach and feel you have made no progress, you can consider moving on. There are appreciative employers out there, plenty of them!
Ongoing appreciation and feedback between employers and staff can help to improve all of the above, but often a lack of communication can breed resentment. Take action and discuss your views, calmly and constructively. Remember what a wonderful profession that we work in, and focus on giving appreciation as well as looking for it.