The Value of Contribution

“Life is not accumulation, it is about contribution.” ~ Stephen Covey

No matter what it is that we do, no matter our business choices, work and employee statuses; no matter our title, whether we are pedaling sales material on the street, door to door, taking out the trash, or creating code; we all have a right to feel that our contribution at work is valued.

I believe that it is also our responsibility to help others feel valued for their contribution in the workplace. Yes, the analogy is very much like the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto me.” If you value another person and their contribution, they can in turn value you and yours. It’s like a good marriage. If you’re a good spouse to your spouse, they will, in turn, be a good spouse back to you. Both people get what they need out of the relationship. When I started examining what a valued workforce should encompass, I started looking internally at myself. When were the moments when I felt undervalued in my working environments?

In The Beginning…

When you start out for a new job, whether it’s online or in person, it doesn’t matter what the category is, the very first thing that is reviewed is your skill set, a.k.a. your resume or the list of tasks you say you can complete. Once those things get established, you meet the person. Whether it’s called an interview, a meet and greet, consultation, strategy call, whatever you want to call it, it’s just basically an opportunity for you to chit chat with the other person to find out if it’s going to be a good fit. You’re able to ask questions, you’re able to find out about one another. It’s very much like dating. And in those moments, you get an opportunity to connect with the other person.

“Connection comes from engaging with others.”

Why is it then, if that connection is so important at the beginning, do we tend to let it fall by the wayside once we’re hired, once we’re a year or two in? For online relationships, it can be even more difficult to maintain that connection. Look how easy it can be to ghost someone! It’s so easy to click delete, unsubscribe, or to leave a group altogether. If you are in an online working relationship you don’t have to see and run into people every day. You’re not going to see anyone at the water cooler. You’re not going to have to greet people at the bus stop. They live somewhere in Timbuktu and they’re online. Maybe you have never even met them.

Good-bye, Charlie!

But it doesn’t matter. There are some core elements that should be required and that also are necessary in order to feel valued in the workplace, whether you’re online or whether you’re in person. Remember the note I got from my co-worker telling me they liked my ideas when no one else seemed to be listening? That note caused a question to burn inside of me: Why can’t I feel better about where I work? I loved my job at the time. I was working in radio and it was awesome. It was fun, it was engaging, it was fast-paced. It included fun promotions like Easter egg hunts, Karaoke Idle, fashion shows, cooking schools, parades, floats, and on-air games with listeners. Plus, I worked with some really cool people, some whom became lifelong friends.

But there was also an ugliness to the business, being a woman. No, we won’t go down that path today, but the ugliness (outside of sexism) really came down to the lack of appreciation or value of my work. I worked for that company twelve years and I dedicated my life to it. I literally lived and breathed my radio station. When I started out in sales I remember standing in line at a supermarket asking the people ahead of me and behind me what radio station they listened to. I remember being so thrilled and pleased when I heard our name. This was back in the day when radio was big, before podcasts and Internet radio now.

“When contributions aren’t recognized, people will be left feeling dispensible.”

Where Did The Love Go

I loved my station and I wanted my station to succeed. And that was just it, it felt like my station. I thought about my customers and I thought about how the best promotions could work with them, how we could get sponsorships. I was so immersed in my work, but my boss never seemed to notice. I was in sales, so it was all about the numbers.

I migrated to promotions and on-air and ended up managing the sales department for a while, but it felt like no matter what I did, my boss just didn’t seem to ever think of me as one of his inner circle people. I was never going to be the top seller, but I wasn’t the bottom either. And when I was on the air, I was met with mixed reactions from the management staff. They were quick to take my ideas and listen to me on certain things, but rarely did they promote me above any of the men. But again, that’s a story for another day.

Near the end of my career there, I was in charge of the website. We had just launched into a bigger market and we’re launching a brand-new website. I was excited and ecstatic to get the website up and running and get the most traffic to it in the shortest amount of time possible. So I came up with a promotion where we would have local schools bet against each other and vote against each other to win a prize where we would host a prom at their school.

It was so fun and the promotion was a hit. At the end of the promotion, our website spiked as 55,000 people visited within a seven-day period and we ended up giving away our prom. We were so excited because we were going to go to the school, do a live broadcast on the road to give away the package, and see all the students in person.

It’s Not Me, It’s You

The day before we were going to give away this prize, we found out that our format was getting changed, that our beloved station, which was a hot AC station, was getting ready to be changed to news talk. Now, this happens a lot in radio formats, but it was crushing to us because as a small staff we were in it to win it.

We loved our format.

We loved our listeners.

We loved the promotion.

We had just launched this huge amazing event. How could they possibly take all of this work that we had been doing and flip the script on us without even checking with us, without asking us our opinion, without even telling us it was happening? I recognize it’s a dollars and cents, bottom line kind of thing. But clearly, they had thought about this for months. In radio you can’t just make a quick change; you have to get licenses and you have to get approvals. I knew that while we had been working feverishly behind the scenes to create this amazing event, we were being sold out and it felt crappy that our contribution to the success of the station was moot. And in that moment, I lost my love for my job.

Onward And Upward

Everything after that, even though the format we ended up switching to wasn’t dire, it just wasn’t mine anymore. I didn’t feel connected to it, but more importantly, I felt any contribution I’d make was dispensable. All of that hard work and contribution had been completely unappreciated and worse, devalued.

So, my burning question now is: How do you create a valued workforce? Do you value those you work with by highlighting their contributions? Have you ever felt devalued in your working environment? Share by commenting below.


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