A crisis of self-worth Part 3: Do your people know that they matter to you?

August 22, 2022

Happiness + Contentment + Self-worth = Well-being

For the past few weeks, in these posts I have been exploring the looming self-worth crisis that is, I believe, behind much of our historic levels of anxiety and depression. Could a self-esteem catastrophe be fueling our societal edginess as well? Is this why the great resignation is showing no signs of slowing down?

I raised those questions last week in the first of three posts about the self-worth catastrophe we find ourselves in. I believe that self-worth is the essential third leg of the well-being stool:

These are the questions that when answered “no!” generate crushingly poor self-esteem.

  1. “Am I desired?”
  2. “Do I matter?”
  3. “Am I successful?”
  4. “Am I appreciated?”
  5. “Does anybody care what I think?”
  6. “Do I look good?”

The personal cost of low self-worth is obvious. Everyday living becomes tough to manage through the fog of depression, anxiety and crippled physical health.

In my second post, I explored the corporate impact of low self-esteem. It creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that leads to low production and procrastination. It can also generate a bitterness toward management that leads to an adversarial relationship. When an employee struggles with the idea that “No one cares what I think”, there is a tendency for them to rally other fellow workers to “Team Aggrieved”, putting staff morale at peril. And when any human being wrestles with the notion that “I do not matter”, their efforts can devolve into rote work as they fail to see meaning in what they do.

This is why low self-esteem is not simply an individual matter to be left between a person and their therapist. Company and community leaders need to take this into account as they craft their corporate people strategies.

Here are just a few simple ways that managers and senior leaders can address low self-worth among their employees.

Give a voice to each person on your team.

In my years of leading, the number one complaint I heard from people throughout our organization was some variation of “No one cares what I think.” When a person feels as if they do not have a voice, it does more than just dampen their engagement; it also wounds their ego. To have your voice, i.e. your opinions and ideas, neglected is for your worst fears to be confirmed. “I am less than….” “I do not matter to these people”.

The level of thoughtfulness, intentionality and planning it takes to give every person on your team a voice is more than most leaders feel they can handle. “Who has time for that?” But we all know that the payoff is worth it in enhanced employee engagement. And we should also realize that being heard is one of the most effective self-worth boosters. Hear them out and you’ll contribute mightily to their well-being. They’ll thank you for it.

Help your people discover a calling that transcends their job.

This past week I conducted a workshop for the men of Alpha Tau Omega. It has been my privilege to create a Men of Destiny workshop for ATO that guides these young men to discover their calling.  Guys routinely stop me after the workshop to share how it gave them hope and confidence for their next steps. I’ve done a similar workshop for the employees of a number of organizations with similar results.

To have a sense of purpose and calling is a huge boost to one’s self-esteem. You realize that your contribution is not simply limited to your job and that you matter to others and the world. What could you do to guide your people deeper into meaning? I’m here to help in any way I can. It’s what I do!

Offer recognition that is individually focused.

Question…what is your language of appreciation? Are you a “words” person, i.e. you like to be praised verbally? Or do you feel most affirmed with a small token of appreciation, a gift that says, “You did a good job”? Or perhaps you’d feel most appreciated if your supervisor took you out for coffee to spend some time with you to say thanks.

Knowing this about yourself, think about your employees. They’re no different. A one-size-fits-all type of recognition system does little to enhance the self-esteem of all your people. They need to hear “thank you” in a way that is unique to them. Check out the book 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace for a more in-depth exploration of the art of recognition. Few acts of leadership are better at building self-worth in your people than thoughtful acts and words of appreciation. Sure, it takes time and energy and not a small amount of intentionality, but the payoff is worth it for your organization and their well-being.

I can imagine that this may all be a bit much for employers to consider and address. It’s hard enough to accomplish the mission you’ve set out for yourself and your team. This may feel like too much hand holding of your people to warrant the attention. But imagine a team where each member feels personally confident…a team with all three legs of their well-being stool intact. Picture them arriving at work assured and ready to go. I think you’d agree it’s worth the extra effort.

Finally, let me help you figure this all out! I created The People Project to provide guidance to frazzled leaders who wish to enhance both the engagement of their employees and their well-being. I’m happy to be your “fractional” Chief People Officer for a season, to help you create a revolutionary people strategy that will be deeply appreciated!





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