Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized

Value and recognition are linked to 1 of the 4 fundamental needs we talked about: the need to feel a sense of worth (i.e. Feeling confident that if you work hard, do your best, demonstrate commitment, and make meaningful contributions, you will be recognized and rewarded accordingly. Feeling worthy also means that you will be shown respect and regarded as a valued asset, not as a cost, to the organization”)

So, what are organizations doing (or not doing) that make people feel so unimportant?

“the comments of lost employees reveal that in all too many cases, disengagement really is about management’s failure to consider the impact of their actions, or lack of action, on employees’ emotions, especially when it results in an employee feeling worth less.” (Branham 123)

According to Saratoga’s Institute’ research, employees say it comes from:

  • Lack of simple appreciation
  • Too much focus on the numbers, not enough on the people
  • Feeling they deserve recognition and don’t get it, while others do
  • Feeling that no one even knows or cares if they exist
  • Recognition was too late to be meaningful
  • Feeling that no one is listening to them
  • Feeling they are worth less than employees at other companies
  • Believing they are not paid for performance
  • Some feel that the wrong kinds of rewards are being given
  • Slow pay and changing pay plans
  • Feeling they are treated like children instead of adults
  • The company doesn’t care about their physical surroundings
  • Not provided with the right tools

What can explain this?

Managers might be reluctant to recognize employees for a number of reasons:

Prior experience/tradition: some managers have been trained in a sort of ‘laissez-faire’ attitude toward recognition (“If you don’t hear from me, you’re doing a good job” or “don’t expect me to pat you on the back just for doing your job—I expect you to do your job.”).

Failure to notice: Some managers either fail to pay attention to their employees, or pay attention to the wrong things, and thus don’t know when their employees have done something worth recognizing.

Disconnect/Ignorance: they don’t know enough about an employee’s job to know the difference between average and superior performance.

Fear: they are afraid that their employees will believe their praise/recognition is insincere, or that they will recognize some employees and forget others.

A “Not my job” attitude: some managers believe that recognition is HR’s task

Actionable tips for employers (Branham 125-144)

To Make Employees Feel Valued and Recognized:

Pay Practices for Engagement and Retention

Offer competitive base pay linked to value creation.

The need to provide increased value to customers has led many companies to link base pay more to value creation and less to rank or years of service. In some cases, companies will pay lower-ranking employees more than their superiors if they are bringing more value to the company.

It’s useful to know that some employees may be irritated by the perceived injustice caused by this sort of move, whereby an employee of higher ‘rank’ or level of experience is paid less than another employee of lower rank, believing that they are undeserving or that they themselves deserve more.

One way to avoid this is by clearly communicating to all employees how ‘value’ is determined in the company, and how it relates to base pay. Of course, this will be different based on your company’s objectives.

Reward results with variable pay aligned with business goals.

More and more companies are opting for pay practices that require employees to put their pay at risk in exchange for greater rewards if they help the company meet its business objectives.

While some employees may be turned off to this because of the perceived lack of ‘security’, others will be more motivated by it because of the sense of ownership it creates; their performance is directly linked to their compensation (and livelihood), and to the company’s success.

There are 3 types of variable pay companies use:

  1. Short-term variable pay: usually focuses on the achievement of business goals within one year
  2. Long-term cash variable pay: usually focuses on the achievement of business goals after 2 or more years
  3. Long-term equity variable pay: stock options

Reward employees at a high enough level to motivate higher performance.

Studies have repeatedly shown that there is a certain level at which employees become more willing to put forth the effort to achieve higher goals (some experts say 10-12 % above base pay is required).

Generally, variable pay awards should be higher when:
• The bottom-line impact of the results is significant.
• The result is difficult to achieve.
• The result takes longer to achieve.
• Base pay is more at risk.

Use cash payouts for on-the-spot recognition.

Reserve 1-2 % percent of your base pay budget for cash payouts or lump-sum payments to recognize top performers in the current time frame. This can really increase your employees’ motivation, especially when given as quickly as possible following an achievement.

Involve employees and encourage two-way communication when designing new pay systems.

Studies show that employee satisfaction goes up when employees know how their pay is determined. If you’re designing a new pay system, involve your employees in the process. If you already have a pay system set up, encourage conversation around the topic and welcome employee feedback.

Monitor the pay system to ensure fairness, efficiency, consistency, and accuracy.

Survey your people on the fairness and consistency of your pay system. Also, get managers to ask employees what recognition programs they would consider to be good incentives.


Non-pay Best Practices for Valuing and Recognizing People

Create a culture of informal recognition founded on sincere appreciation.

A simple ‘thank you’ is one of the most powerful ways to recognize an employee.

Here are some simple ideas to express your thanks:

  • Send a gift certificate for dinner for two at a local restaurant with a note of thanks.
  • Send out note cards for writing personal thanks with the words ‘‘You Done Good’’ or ‘‘Bravo’’ printed on them.
  • Give employees a way to recognize their peers, such as having them pass around an old trophy to coworkers for doing something they view as outstanding.
  • Give employees an unexpected half day or day off.
  • Take the employee to lunch.
  • Give the employee a choice assignment.
  • Pay for a massage or manicure.
  • Send a gift basket to the home

***Remember that recognition works best when it comes in response to desired behavior and performance. If you praise employees for everything they do, your praise will soon lose value to them. People actually value recognition more when they have done something to earn it.

Make new hires feel welcome and important.

The best time to start making your employees feel valued is at the beginning, when they first start. Some ways include:

  • Assigning ‘buddies’, peer coaches or mentors to coach your new hires
  • Making sure new hires understands the significance of their work and how it fits within the overall structure of the company as a whole. You can do this by teaching them how the company functions, letting them chat with customers, having them sit in on a sales call, giving them testimonials, etc.

Ask for employee input, then listen, and respond.

A sure way to communicate to someone that you value them is simply by listening. In the context of the workplace, this means actively seeking out and encouraging employee feedback. Ways to do this include:

  • Hold 50/50 meetings with employees, where management speaks for 50 percent of the time on their goals, strategies, and ideas, then gives the floor to employees to respond for the rest of the meeting
  • Conduct regular employee surveys and be prepared to act on key issues surfaced. Don’t forget to act on the suggestions given; nothing kills morale quicker than asking for input, then ignoring it.
  • Conduct in-depth exit interviews that get to the root cause of why employees are disengaging and leaving, then take action to address those issues.

Keep employees in the loop.

Another recipe for chronic employee disengagement is the practice of withholding information; by implication, employees will think that their manager(s) believe they are either not competent and/or not trustworthy in some way.

Avoid this by:

  • Openly discussing the company’s strategic plan and what it means to each department and employee.
  • Sharing information as soon as you possibly to stop the spread of rumors.
  • Sharing information face-to-face when possible.

*Remember this: the more valuable and productive the employees, the more they want to be kept in the loop

Provide the right tools and resources.

Stop seeing tools as needless costs, but rather as investments.

The truth is that employees can’t do their work without the necessary tools they need to succeed. If you aren’t sure what those tools are, simply ask your employees: “What do you need that would make you more effective in your job?”. If you’re unsure whether the cost is justified, ask your employees to make a case for the purchase.

Keep the physical environment fit to work in.

The environment you provide for your workers tells them how much you value them. So, spend some time in your employees’ working quarters and ask yourself: “Would I want to work in this environment?”. Then, ask them if there is anything they’d like to change about it.

Actionable tips for employees (Branham 144-145)

Here are some guidelines for employees for getting more recognition and pay:

  • Ask your manager to define what results are required for excellence in your job.
  • Ask yourself if you are willing to work hard and pay the price to achieve those results.
  • Ask what criteria are used to determine bonuses and raises.
  • Ask yourself if you are willing to put more of your pay at risk, to be paid bonuses based on achieving targeted results rather than getting annual pay raises.
  • If so, make them part of your performance plan and commit to achieving them.
  • Compete against yourself to achieve key results, not against your peers.
  • Ask what new skills would make your more valuable to the organization.
  • Tell your manager how you prefer to be recognized for your contributions.
  • Ask to sit in on a sales call with a satisfied customer to better understand the value of your job.
  • Present a cost-benefit analysis to your manager making the case for the purchase of tools and equipment you believe you need.
  • If you feel you are being kept out of the loop, ask for more information.
  • Don’t wait for your manager to ask for your input—give him or her the benefit of your views and ideas.


Branham, Leigh. The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave: How to Recognize the Subtle Signs and Act before Its Too Late. AMACOM, 2012.

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