An unmotivated employee: when did I become that person?*

unmotivated employeeI work because I have to. I’d like to say that I work because I enjoy it, but that’s not exactly true all of the time. In my current job (in learning and development), there are bits of it I enjoy: the people who sit near me, the view, the having to be somewhere by a certain time, my pay check. Sometimes the people I deal with are wonderful; sometimes they are not. Sometimes the work itself is interesting and meaningful, but most of the time it’s not. And lately, I have to drag myself into the place I spend my days. And this is why I am writing. I have to confess that I have become the person I did not want to be – someone I never thought I would become: disengaged, unmotivated, apathetic. Which is shocking because I have always been highly motivated. I’ve always been an achiever, or I was until recently.

And I have always been a believer in the “do great work and you will be rewarded” mantra. I no longer believe this. I see people in my workplace who do nothing and are rewarded with opportunities, with promotions, with status, power and with money. But this is not about money. Or power. Or status. Well it is, but only on a certain level. This is about being and feeling valued by the organisation for which I work. And that’s what I don’t feel. And that’s why I am disengaged, unmotivated and apathetic.

How can I feel motivated when Mr Head Honcho says: the role that I do is only worth X amount. It’s not personal, I’m told. It’s not about you personally. It’s the role. The actual job that you do. It’s about what it’s worth. And it’s only worth X.

I am so sick of hearing that, Mr Head Honcho, because it is personal. When I bring my skills and my brains and my experience (that I have gained and developed on my own) to a role, to benefit your organisation, then it’s personal. When I spend my time and effort on something to benefit your organisation, it’s personal. When I invest emotionally in a project that benefits your organisation, it’s personal. You can not tell me that what I do isn’t personal. When you tell me that my role and the job that I do in the organisation is only worth X, you are telling me that I personally am only worth X. I feel like I am at best a cog in the wheel; at worst, slave labour.

And yes, I’ve read all the research about how it’s not about the money. And that’s all fine and dandy IF you love everything about what you do. I don’t and I admit that (well I did, until I felt unvalued). See the pattern, Mr Head Honcho?

So I could whinge and complain about it. But I won’t. I will do what I do best. Take action. I will find a job in an organisation that actually values its employees; where valuing isn’t just lip service and where leaders put their money where their mouth is (no pun intended). I will find an organisation that is less about the role and more about the person doing the job, and acknowledging their skills and experience and brains and paying them what they are worth. And I want to go back to my first love: marketing communications. I’ve dabbled in organisational learning and development long enough, because the irony is that my job exists to make the workplace better. But how can I even think about doing that when I feel so unvalued? Hypocritical much?

In light of this, I pay attention to Steve Jobs, who passed away last week: “When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

*Disclaimer: this is a ranty blog post.


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