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Coping With Invisibility At Work

The word “invisible” is defined as not being “perceptible or discernible” by the mind. Essentially, not being seen or comprehended. This is a form of micro or even macro aggression that can you feeling undervalued, irrelevant and dehumanised at work; and worst of all – it is difficult to articulate, escalate or resolve.

For example, how you escalate not being invited to coffee by two of your colleagues? Or how do you articulate the unpleasantness of making a point during a team meeting that although you are allowed to make, absolutely nobody pays any attention to and they move on as if you never spoke!

The obvious solution to this kind of challenge is to ‘move on’ to somewhere you feel more visible, understood and valued. However, I know as much as the next person that you can’t always ‘move on’ from unpleasantness, and sometimes you have to stay for a bigger purpose than you. 

So, if invisibility is making you feel dejected and demotivated at work, here are some tips to help you navigate through.

Speak up. If you can. The best way to tackle difficult situations is through communication, partly because it is possible for people to be blissfully oblivious to the issues they cause and also because it sets you free from having to suffer in silence. But also, I am aware ‘speaking up’ does not resolve all things. It is best to speak to your line manager first about issues like this in a level-headed way where logic weighs more than emotions, for example focusing more on the impact of demotivation on your work and the changes you would like to see.

Do not internalise other people’s disbelief in you. What I mean is, don’t let what you think other people think about you define you. You have so many layers, you only bring the work layer to work, and there are aspects of you that are still to be discovered. So don’t let someone else project on you a life that is not yours. How do you do this? Dedicate some time to finding out more about who you are as a person, note down your strengths and weaknesses, essentially take control of the narrative you tell yourself about you.

Focus on what you can control. Unfortunately, we cannot control the actions and thoughts of others, but what we can control is how we react and what we do going forward. An important attribute of successful leadership is self-regulation and self-control – while feeling under-appreciated at work can cause negative feelings of resentment and anger, it is key that you develop a better way of managing how you react. By focusing on how you manage your emotions (good and bad), you are able to retain control in difficult situations. There is always something our own behaviour is trying to tell us, it reveals after all our deepest thoughts, fears and insecurities.

Keep calm and carry on. It took me a while to learn that it is okay to be persistent at work. In the early days of my career, I thought to be a team player I had to always be agreeable, so I would say yes to potentially bad ideas just to be a ‘team player’. But I have learnt it is not so much what you say, it’s how you say it. It’s okay to agree to disagree, even if your opinion does not seem too popular or agreeable – if you are convinced on the good judgment of your ideas, don’t be afraid to postulate them.

Build relationships across your organisation. Human beings love to belong to groups; we use this to satisfy our need to be connected and loved, and that’s okay, but it does not have to be with your immediate team or organisation alone. Invest some time in meeting people from other teams. Take a break from burying your head in your laptop and walk around the office floor, chat here and there. Just because you are experiencing negativity in your current team does not mean you will in your next team, so always ensure your network is vast and varied.

In hindsight, every experience teaches us something, and we are generally stronger afterwards, however, we all deserve to thrive and great leaders should support their people to thrive.

Good luck and keep thriving.


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