What is Our Perceived Value?


You get up and go to work every day. You do the best job you know how with the direction and parameters established. You are abused by your coworkers regularly, and to top it off, you haven’t been paid in two months. Would I put up with it? No way. I do however know someone who does. Why? The dilemma is this person works with family. The mother asks her child not to leave, Dad hires a business coach to help, one brother is passive/aggressive, the other a tyrant. How do you get out from under this predicament?

After graduating college with a degree that will never translate in the real world, you go to work with family to learn the family business. Your older brother treats you like you’re 12 and incapable of making an adult decision, doesn’t mentor you in any area, doesn’t even show you a financial statement and keeps everything close to his vest. The other brother never says a word, not a peep, and the father is trying his best to keep the peace and get everyone working together. Out of college for 7 years, you have learned nothing from your involvement with the family business and may be a wee bit trapped because the family business has taught you nothing about the business, and everything about dysfunction. It’s your family that is keeping you down. What do you put on your resume when seeking work elsewhere?

It’s easy to cut ties with a company that doesn’t value your contributions, and seriously a company that doesn’t pay you should be gone the first time you don’t get paid, but how do you cut ties to a business where the lines between family and work are blurred? It’s the stuff movies are made of.

The real issue here is what does this do to your personal perception of your value? You are aware enough to know you haven’t really learned any skills that are portable. You probably start to feel worthless wondering around looking for a way to make contributions.

It’s hard when you are young and you interview and the potential employer says they are looking for experience. How do you get experience if no one will hire you? The scenario above is a double whammy; you have worked for the family business for seven years and still have no real experience.

I would imagine the complex dynamics would drain your self-confidence and weigh on you daily. You know you have to do something but how do you do it without ruining the family dynamic? I am old enough to know the family dynamic comes after my own mental, physical, and workplace health. I don’t define myself by my job, although I like it and make many contributions, it simply pays the bills…and the wonderful things outside my job, my volunteerism, my friends, my art, my contributions to my fellow man, these things define who I am. Without my job I would worry about how to pay the bills, but I would not view myself as any less.

If you feel worthless at work, are trapped by family and know you have to make a change but are paralyzed by it all, what’s the toll this takes on how you view yourself overall? The skills you know you had when you left college are languishing in the dark, your perception of yourself devolves as each day passes, and the end is never in sight.

Self-confidence and self-worth are bolstered daily as we have small and large successes in our lives. Where these successes happen, work, home, or socially matters not as long as they happen in all these settings at some point. It’s these moments that bring a small inner smile to our souls knowing we had a moment. If you don’t have these flashes during the eight or more hours you spend at work, when you leave there is nothing to look forward to when you go back the next day, and you have to go back because you can’t find another job.
By allowing ourselves to be defined by our workplace, we may suffer in a setting that eats away at our inner selves. No one would deny it is important when we go to work we feel we can make a contribution, have a pleasant experience, and know we are earning our pay. It is equally important that we view our value in broader terms or we may never be able to climb out of that dark endless tunnel of self-doubt…which in the end may be the only thing that keeps us one step from the edge.

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