We've all been there at work: situations where we feel undervalued or disrespected. Complaining to management about how you feel, however, is a dead end. Your emotions simply aren't that important in business.

That can be hard to grasp in a worldwide corporate culture where companies have "Chief Happiness Officers, " but employers want employees to be happy not out of altruism but because they hope that happy employees will work harder than unhappy ones.

This isn't to say you shouldn't try to be happy at work. It's also not to say that managers shouldn't try to keep employees happy. It's just that complaining when you're not happy isn't going to change things.

In most cases, management has already decided that the economic value of your happiness is less than the economic value of whatever they did that happened to make you unhappy.

That's why it's always a mistake to surface a complaint about something that made you feel undervalued or to ask management to revisit a decision because the decision that they made hurt your feelings. 

Take, for example, extroverts frequently interrupt introverts during meetings; many times the extroverts basically take control and the meeting follows. This is obviously unfair, and if you're an introvert, highly frustrating.

Even so, when introverts go to management and complain about feeling undervalued, they're likely to be considered oversensitive or told to "speak up!" Focus on your emotions, in other words, turns your emotions into yet another problem.

It's much smarter and more effective to make a BUSINESS case for allowing the introverts equal time. Interruptions under-utilize the group's brainpower by freezing out contributions from a third of the people in the room. Hence it's making your company less intelligent.

Similarly, suppose you didn't get a promotion that you feel you really deserved. You can complain about how you feel undervalued, but that's probably not going to change anything. To get the next promotion, come up with a valid business reason!

The message here, I think, is that, despite all the fa-de-la about workplace happiness, it's a mistake to think about work as something that's supposed to cater to your emotions. In other words, it's not personal... it's just business.

Published on: May 15, 2019
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