I’m feeling unappreciated at work – what should I do?

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Are you feeling stuck in your food safety or quality career?

Need advice on how to manage a delicate situation at work?

These are just a couple of the questions we tackle here at Food Insider.

Our Food Safety Career Coach is Bob Pudlock, publisher of Food Safety Insider and President of Gulf Stream Search, an executive search firm that specializes in placing top talent with food and beverage companies in North America.

Bob shares his insights here on questions we get at the Food Safety Insider – if you have questions you’d like to submit, you can use the contact form below – we will not use your name, company or any revealing information when answering your question.

I am feeling unappreciated at work – what should I do?

A Food Safety and Quality Manager wrote in that she was feeling unappreciated in her current role despite the fact she had spent her last 12 months completing continuing education requirements and attaining several certifications.

This person shared they weren’t feeling appreciated nor did they get any recognition or acknowledgement that they had attained their PCQI certification and completed Advanced HACCP certification courses.


From the Food Safety Career Coach

This is a great contribution and a very common feeling that Food Safety, Food Science and Quality professionals have at different times in their career.

Here are a couple tips to address your “stuck” feeling.

Challenge your thinking

When I hear ANYONE express frustration they don’t feel appreciated or aren’t receiving some form of positive feedback(a job offer, recognition or a raise), I always recommend challenging your thinking.

You may have a faulty thought pattern that needs to be fixed.

Ask yourself this.

Do you believe having a degree or graduating from a particular school is why you are valued by your employer?
Do you believe attaining an SQF or Advanced HACCP certification is what your boss or company values about you?
Do you believe you’ve had a successful career because you’ve attained these certifications?

If your answer is “yes” or “no, but…”, then I would suggest you reframe your thinking around your value to an employer.

What do food and beverage companies expect of their Food Safety and Quality professionals?

Food and beverage companies value Food Safety and Quality professionals for two primary reasons.

  • They keep their company free from recalls, failed audits and product liability issues.
  • They help the company reduce their Cost of Quality – a tangible financial metric defined as the costs associated with preventing product failure and unsafe products AND maintaining quality and safety.

If you were given a scorecard at the end of each day to fill out, these would be the two boxes you are judged against.

Note there’s no mention of degrees, or certifications, or continuing education.

Degrees and certifications are means to an end, not the end goal and certainly not the way you are valued by executive teams.

That does NOT mean your certifications are not valuable.

Nor does it mean your effort to attain those certifications is unappreciated.

It’s just that training and certifications and degrees are a means to an end.

How do you judge a home builder?

If you build homes for a living, you don’t get a slap on the back because you drove to Home Depot and bought a hammer.

Home builders don’t get paid because they sit through seminars or licensing classes on how to build a home.

A home builder is judged and get paid because they use their tools(the hammer) and the skills they’ve accumulated(in the seminars) to build a home.

How do food industry executives judge Food Safety and Quality professionals?

This bears repeating – food industry executives look and value Food Safety and Quality professionals in two, high-level metrics.

  • Did she keep our consumers safe?
  • Did she help us increase our margins by reducing our Cost of Quality today?

This is the blunt truth of why YOU were hired and what YOU are valued for in Food Safety and Quality.

That doesn’t excuse leadership’s responsibility to encourage, recognize and honor the achievements of their team members, whether front-line employees, Food Safety professionals or your peers in Marketing.

If appreciation and recognition transcend either of these two objectives, the company inches closer to product failure or financial failure, not away from it.

So if you cling to a belief that your degree, or your certifications are the “value” you bring to a company, you’ll continue to be frustrated.

And consider that if you’re getting more accolades for attaining certification than you are for keeping the company safe from recalls, that’s not good either.

It might FEEL good to you despite the company’s food safety or quality record being stagnant or dysfunctional, but when you look at the broader industry and your career, you WANT to work for a company that has their priorities in order.

Another consideration is that a degree or a certification can be a false positive if it’s used as an indicator of a successful work outcome.

A certification, license or degree does not afford someone exclusivity to perform a task effectively.

Two employees, one with a degree and one without, CAN accomplish the same tasks in the same amount of time with the same level of efficiency and effectiveness.

The degree then, in many cases, is not the reason one can complete a task or not.

In the case of a home builder, the government may “REQUIRE” a license to build a home, but it doesn’t mean someone else can’t built the same or better quality home than you WITHOUT a license.

That’s why we hear executives say in frustration – “look, I just need people that get the job done” or “I’m tired of talking about it, we just need to produce.”

So be mindful of how you’re framing your value and contribution to your employer.

It might be you are misinterpreting what your actual value is to an employer, not the employer under appreciating you.

Signature Bob Pudlock Food Safety Insider

Bob Pudlock is the publisher of Food Safety Insider and President of Gulf Stream Search, a search firm that specializes in placing top talent with consumer packaged goods companies and the technology companies(SaaS and PaaS) that support them.  

Bob is one of North America’s most-respected and top Food Safety recruiters.

The Food Safety Insider has been recognized as one of the top food safety blogs by Feedspot.

This post was updated October 7, 2020.

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