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Get the kudos you deserve at work

By Beth Braccio Hering, CareerBuilder
  • "You are responsible for your income -- not your employer," expert says
  • Employers look to employees to support leadership in an economic downturn
  • Skip hanging around the water cooler if office gossip is getting you down

( -- Congratulations! Despite daily news stories of layoffs and companies folding, you have managed to hang on to your job.

So why don't you exactly feel like celebrating?

While you may be grateful for employment, the fact is that corporate restructuring, budget cuts and a general air of uncertainty take a toll on all workers. What can you do if you are feeling underpaid, overworked, unrecognized or burned out?

Money matters

From waitresses expected to serve additional tables because of staff reductions to account executives putting in extra hours to land new clients, many employees are working longer and harder than ever before. Yet while demands on workers may be rising, their paychecks often are not.

Blame the employer? Joseph Grenny, co-author of the New York Times bestseller "Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High," cautions against doing that.

"You are responsible for your income -- not your employer," Grenny states. He thinks that if you believe you are underpaid for the amount of work you do, you've got three options:

• Persuade your employer

"Evaluate your contributions to the company and determine if the value you add to the company warrants a raise. If you think a raise is merited, make sure to adequately prepare for the crucial conversation with your employer, and be prepared to share specific examples of how you have benefited the company."

• Supplement your income

"If you do not think your company is in a position to give you a raise, consider supplementing your income with consulting in your area of expertise, a side business or another source of income."

• Shop around

"If you feel that you are underpaid and under-appreciated, it might be time to start looking for a new job."

Is "rocking the boat" dangerous in this economy? As Grenny sees it, "Employers these days realize that if today is a soft labor market, it will be tight again sometime in the future. Consequently, you can have more confidence than you might realize in approaching your boss. The key is to build mutual purpose -- to let the employer know you care about the needs of the company while wanting to be fairly compensated yourself."

Beyond a paycheck

Being happy in a job isn't solely about pay. Employees want to know that their talents and efforts are recognized and appreciated by those around them.

Janet Flewelling, director of human resources operations for Administaff in Houston, Texas, notes that in many cases when an employee feels he is being overlooked by management it has nothing to do with length of tenure or even job performance.

"During a tough economy, when many companies have experienced layoffs, tensions are high and it is often the case that management is consumed with other concerns such as reducing operating costs or retaining clients."

Flewelling gives the following advice for workers looking to get noticed:

• Take a proactive stance

"Provide your supervisor with regular status updates of your work and candidly discuss projects and the milestones achieved before he or she requests the information. Taking the initiative to openly communicate with management will not only assist in keeping you top-of-mind, it demonstrates your drive to succeed, which is something no smart manager can overlook."

• Focus on career development

"Successful companies know retaining employees who want to constantly learn and develop their skills are the best investment they can make and therefore these employees are rarely overlooked."

• Support your company

"Employers look to employees to support leadership in an economic downturn. Employees should clearly communicate their support to management and let them know that they are ready and willing to pitch in and assist wherever necessary to help make management's vision a reality."

Getting out of the dumps

Irritability, headaches, stomach aches, fatigue and problems sleeping are some ways that job stress can manifest itself. When feeling burned out becomes the norm instead of the exception, it may be time for action.

Try a walk at lunch to clear your head. Skip hanging around the water cooler if office gossip is getting you down. Try a power nap after work instead of more coffee, and be sure you're eating something other than junk food from the vending machine.

Finally, consider utilizing services of employee assistance programs, which are typically available through insurance providers at no additional cost to the employee.

"Oftentimes, workers do not take advantage of these programs because they do not know they are available or they worry the information will be made accessible to the employer," Flewelling states.

"However, that is not the case. EAPs offer confidential counseling and referral services from trained professionals to help employees with problems at work or home, financial concerns, stress, depression and substance abuse, to name a few."

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