Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is Your Job Flushing Your Self-Esteem Down the Toilet?

Most bosses have read at least a few articles or even some books that offer advice along the lines of "Employee Recognition in Five Seconds a Day" or "Meaningless Pats on the Back -- How It Can Work For You."

Let's face it: In today's fast-paced, high-stress working world, many bosses may start out with good intentions on recognizing and rewarding employees for good performance, but the truth is that it sort of slips away after a time. The weekly meetings to recognize employee contributions get put off until it's once a month...then once every few months...then, nothing.

Or, the recognition program becomes a joke: "Jane is employee of the month because she answered the phone! She now gets the top parking spot for a month!"

It's no wonder many workers go home at the end of the day completely demoralized. They see an endless road of 10-12 hour days, with little appreciation of what they do. They're just another body filling a spot at a company that gives them a paycheck, but does little for their self-esteem.

Believe me, I'm not belittling that employers offer a paycheck, especially in this tough economy. But I do think that more and more, workers are losing sight of what makes them feel good about themselves. Namely, a job well done.

Sure, we can give ourselves little pats on the back, but if the boss or someone else doesn't really recognize our contribution, what does that mean for us in the long run? I'm afraid it means a workforce that is always feeling like they can't keep up, as if they are chasing an endless list of tasks they can never hope to complete. They are never given a chance to stop and be recognized that what they do matters, that what they contribute should make them feel good about themselves.

So, what's the answer when your self-esteem takes a beating because of your job? The answer may be to find ways to recognize and reward yourself.

Some options:

* Do something every day that you enjoy. Work in your garden, tinker in your workshop or create a spectacular meal. The point is to create something that makes you feel good about yourself. Even if you can only devote 15 or 30 minutes a day, it's important to do something that bolsters positive feelings about yourself.
* Give yourself a gold star. It's a simple thing, but write down something every day that you feel good about at work. Maybe you helped a co-worker with a problem or dealt with a difficult customer that went away happy. Those are things to be proud of -- by the end of the week you'll be able to look back at your list and see what you accomplished.
* Have happy reminders around you. Most workers have photos of their kids or loved ones nearby, which are great reminders they have a lot to be proud of in their lives. But you can also have other tangible proof: a race medal; a note from the boss praising your efforts; an industry article mentioning your contributions. Change these items if you begin to not "see" them anymore. It's important they really make you think about the good things you've done.
* Stop the cycle of negative thoughts. If you're hanging around at work with other people who complain and whine a lot, they'll start to drag you down with them. Have lunch or coffee with those who seem to be upbeat, no matter what else is going on. If you can't find anyone, spend your lunch hour or coffee break reading upbeat or funny articles or books. Tell yourself that when you make a mistake, it's because there is a lesson to be learned.

What else can someone do to boost their self-esteem?


Subscribe with Bloglines

Add to Technorati Favorites


Paige said...

Great advice! I especially love the "gold star" option. It really makes people feel appreciated and a job well done.

Something people can do at work is keep a list of accomplishments. I keep it in a file right on my desk top and if I am feeling like I need a pick-me-up I just take a look at it, and I love to add new accomplishmetns to the list.


Anonymous said...

Nice provocative post! Here's another idea: Send out your resume for a job that can change your attitude for the better - and for the long run. It can boost your self-esteem to know you're trying to change your situation. So, at the least, you gain hope. At the most, you land another job where you can regain your sense of self worth.

Anita said...

That's a wonderful idea. Too many times, I think, we dwell more on the things we did wrong, instead of the things we did right. Such a list is a great way to stay focused on how what we do really does have an impact.
Thanks for sharing your story.

Anita said...

I've always been amazed at how just putting your resume together can boost your self esteem. You can see -- in black and white -- how far you've come, and the things you've accomplished. You can really focus on how your performance impacted a company's bottom line. Your suggestion can not only be used to get another job -- but perhaps to promote yourself better at your current employer.
Thanks for posting.

Unknown said...

This topic ties right in with an upcoming interview I arranged with Gretchen Rubin on The Happiness Project (forthcoming book), a year-long "test drive" of tips, scientific studies, and popular wisdom of the ages about how to be happy. She will be interviewed by William Arruda of the Reach Branding Club on Thursday, Oct. 2 at 12 noon EST. Sign up (no cost) at
-- Susan Guarneri, and Reach Interview Series Producer

Anonymous said...

This may or may not make sense to anyone but me, but I recommend watching less TV every night. If I spent my whole night watching TV, all my free time went by so fast I felt like all I did was work/eat/sleep/repeat and it really got me down. By turning off the tube and reading a book or chatting with my husband, my free time has seemed much richer, thereby more fulfilling.

Anita said...

That makes a lot of sense to me. Just like turning away from the computer, putting away the Blackberry and letting the machine pick up the phone calls. It makes you feel like you're in control of those things, instead of those things being in control of you. Great suggestion.

Anonymous said...

I love those "Employee of the Month" parking spaces that always sit empty right next to the building because no one has been chosen in months. Or those "Employee of the Month" plaques placed in areas for the public to see but which stopped being engraved six months ago. Does just the opposite of what was originally intended.

Thanks for a thoughful blog.

Anita said...

Jack S.,
You're right...making an effort and then just letting it fall aside with little effort can be even more demoralizing than if nothing was done in the first place. A lot of managers and companies fail in this regard when they don't realize the effort must be made all the time.
Thanks for posting.