Feeling Unappreciated

I don’t know why, but I feel like I am very unappreciated for the amount of things I do at work. To give some context I work as a part-time stock and backup receiver at Discount Drug Mart. I’ve been there for almost 2 years and am contemplating on whether I should quit and get a new job where I can be appreciated for the amount of things I can do on my own. The list of things I do there are normal things for stock:

– Restock the shelves

– Get carts

– Make a bale (Cardboard boxes)

– Make Keys (Any kind)

– Get phone calls every so often

– On Tuesday we unload our delivery truck.

At night though:

– Everything listed above and…

– Clean the bathrooms

– Get the garbage from outside and inside the store

– Make sure the eggs, milk, water jugs, and turn off all of the lights, including the cooler door lights.

All of this just for a regular stock person, and some days I have to do it all by myself. Yes, including the night jobs. On top of everything I do regularly, I’m a backup receiver. The person that scans in the products so they can be brought out onto the sales floor. That job isn’t extremely difficult, but tedious. The last thing I’m actually in-charge of is scanning out products that are damaged or outdated. And I have to get that done as early as Saturday morning or as late as Sunday night. The reason I feel unappreciated is because no one sees how much I do on my own. Only once did my managers notice and that was because I reorganized the entire back-stock shelf in our milk cooler from top to bottom and left to right. It took me 5 hours, by myself, and I was lucky enough to have another co-worker with me that night because I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all. He was working on the stuff that came in that day and I was working with the extra stuff we had left over. The next day after that, my co-workers were baffled as to who did that. It wasn’t until I came in that same day to actually come forward and say “I did that”. Everyone thought it was someone else and even the person they asked were like, “I thought you did it” or “I thought he did it.” Nope, it was all me. I understand a lot of these things are part of my job, I get that, but I do it all on my own sometimes with no extra help. This is one part of a Feel Good moment, but also my question. So my question is, do you think people actually appreciate the things I do?

Signed Feel Unappreciated

Dear Feel Unappreciated:

If you were grading yourself, I can see why you would give yourself a B+ or an A. And if you asked your manager what grade she/he would give you, I predict she/he would too. You do say, “This is one part a Feel Good moment.” Probably because you are proud to do so much and to be responsible. You have given yourself the most important kind of grade–one that you know you deserve. Feel good moments for you each day have been absent because you did not get recognition for all you did but once. Your sense of self-worth only goes so far, when you feel all you do is taken for granted. That’s why you wonder if you might find a job elsewhere, hopefully one that has a word of praise for a reliable hard-working guy. That’s one option. Perhaps there are others.

  1. Elsewhere? The hard fact is that in most jobs in which much of an employee’s time is working solo gets attention only when something isn’t done right. And most of us accept the fact that work is work and praise and even thank yous are rare. An aggressive search for a different part time job probably will hinge on finding one that fits your college course work, is convenient in distance from your apartment or home, and pays as well as what you earn now. Finding one that pays better is possible if you are willing to accommodate what it is that you must do. However few places will pay better than where you now work because your DrugMart pay should have increased after working there almost two years. And starting pay at a new job probably wouldn’t match that. Finding a better job for you isn’t like finding someone new to date who doesn’t take you for granted. No employer wants to hire someone unless they are willing to commit to more than a day or two. Also beginning a new job usually demands learning many different tasks. In short, being taken for granted at Drug Mart has some advantages. It means you know what to do and there’s little stress when you are taken for granted. 
  2. Making your job not just a job. The real issue should be what do you want at this stage in your life. Job experience that will fit your career interests should be high among those things you want. You don’t say how if Drug Mart meets that need. I assume since this is part time that you want something different from it and therefore are taking courses to aid that. Not going into deep school debt is something of which you are aware. Your question is more than about feel goods in a part time job. Your unstated question is what life work will make you happy? Might there be job experience that you can get now that works toward that or will serve as a good back up occupation. Don’t discount what you are learning at Discount Drug Mart. You’ve already soaked up a lot of know-how and with a little more you could work as an assistant manager. The pay would enable you to have a good life. More than that, the challenge of managing and making it a place in which employees did not feel taken for granted would make for genuine satisfaction.    
  3. Making where you work is not taken for granted. Employees have more influence on how a workplace is managed and its atmosphere. That’s why we don’t work 60-70 hour weeks. That’s why we have laws for safety and against discrimination. Your answer isn’t what made working conditions better in the past. Rather it’s thinking about ways to raise awareness of and appreciation for who does what. It’s a matter of inventiveness and assertiveness. Probably your store already posts photos of your employees. But are there snapshots of them doing different jobs? Is there a store-wide news sheet in which employees post short stories of something good that has happened with a customer or happened to them or to post their poems?  Some stores create unique ways to applaud positive performance, such as sprucing up an area out front for a holiday or bringing a child to work or inviting an elementary class to paint a window. Engaging a manager in any number of ways to make her/his staff cooperation is worth an informal candid conversation. Most managers will welcome that. They want happy employees. I occasionally kick off a class with lively music and I introduce students to such games as Free Rice, that raises food for people in hunger. Also I set aside time to play a game that helps them get better acquainted and to communicate better, Internet Prediction: a game of hunches and intuition. I’d like to learn how a work group would respond to playing it. One overlooked way is make store-wide staff meetings genuine skull sessions such as sports teams do after a game and before the next. And there are efforts to boost a store’s name by donating a work day to people in need or to clean a corner of a park. Your imagination along any of these lines will make work more than taken for granted. The idea and practice of helping others in and beyond the workplace joins with those who came before us who have made their little circle of the world more livable and enjoyable. Gratefulness for specific instances of things we do and observe that make us feel good may seem insignificant compared to those who have done the research that has enabled others to discover and invent ways to life survive in on our very complex planet. But it is a tangible habit that if we practice in our daily lives is contagious.        

Do any of these options strike you as applicable to your work situation and more importantly spur you onward in your career preparation? You earn feel good moments each time you complete a task you have done well. May you have a mindset that applauds yourself daily. Creating an appreciative workplace climate is not a quick-fix effort. It’s not a solo effort, but can be fostered in some of the many collaborative ways suggested in my response to your question.  Collaboration is learned, earned and rewarded as my signature sentence suggests: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.          –William Gorden