Powerful Phrases to Move From Feeling Invisible to Invincible
If you feel invisible at work you’re in good company. Recent research by Work Human found that nearly 30% of workers have felt invisible at work and 27% have felt ignored.
Their research also identified certain “invisible skills” going unnoticed in the workplace. Ironically, the ignored skills are some of the most necessary for productive conflict in the workplace: empathy and compassion (27.4%), a sense of curiosity, (19.8%), and listening skills/emotional intelligence (15.4%).
I (David) had one of these invisibility experiences early in my career. I sat in a committee meeting drawing up a job description for a new senior management role. We finished the description, and the committee chair thanked us for our input. Then she said that they’d start looking for candidates the following week.
The job was interesting to me, and I immediately wondered “Why they hadn’t asked me to do it?” I sat there frustrated as the meeting concluded. And that might have been the end of the story, except for some sugar.
During college, my friends and I went to a diner whose sugar packets featured bits of rhymed wisdom. My packet had these words printed on it:
He who has a thing to sell
And goes and whispers in a well
Is not so apt to get the dollar
As he who climbs a tree and hollers.
Silly, right? But those words stuck in my head. Sitting in that committee meeting feeling overlooked, the rhyme came lilting back to mind. Challenging me to speak up for myself. I raised my hand and said, “I’m interested in this job.”
The committee chair thought about it and smiled. “You’d be a great candidate.”
I got the job. This was a powerful lesson that when you feel overlooked, you must start by seeing yourself.
Powerful Phrases to Ask Yourself If You Feel Invisible
What should you do when you feel like you’re wearing an invisibility cloak at work? Start by identifying when, where, and with whom you yearn for people to see you, and notice when that is, and isn’t happening. Are there consistent patterns that could show unconscious bias or discrimination? (If you suspect bias or discrimination, please contact HR, you need more than a Powerful Phrase, you need support.)
Here are a few questions to spark your thinking.
“What do people not see that I wish they would? For what do I want to be known?”
Get specific to help you determine your approach. Do you wish people would see how hard you work? Then you’re going to need to find some opportunities to showcase your work and your accomplishments. Or maybe you long to have your ideas taken more seriously. In that case, you might need to change the way you’re presenting your ideas.
Another way to think about this is by completing this sentence. I wish people would know how much I __________. That’s an important first step in remedying the situation.
When you feel unseen, it might feel like it’s with everywhere and everyone. This is worth some reflection. Do you feel invisible in certain meetings or with certain people? If you feel invisible to your manager, be sure you read How to Get Your Boss to Recognize and Appreciate Your Genius.
“Is this a place where employee voice matters?”
Sadly, in our Courageous Cultures research, we found some people in positions of power (we won’t call them leaders) who were happy to treat their employees like bots. They say things like, “I don’t really want them to think. Just teach them the script.” If you’ve done all you can to be seen and share your ideas, and your boss just doesn’t care, it might be time to find a new one.
Powerful Phrases to Share How You Feel or Ask for What You Need
Let’s give you some words you can use to get the attention you need and deserve.
“I’d love to set up some time to talk to you about ___ how’s Wednesday at 3?”
The best way to feel less invisible is to shine a light on the good work you’re doing. Ask for time to talk about what matters to you, to the people who should be listening.
“Sometimes, I feel isolated in my role. I’d love to explore ways to be included in discussions about ________.”
If you want people to know how you’re feeling, tell them, and ask for exactly what you need.
“Working remotely can feel lonely. Could we talk about ways we can connect more as a team?”
If you feel isolated and alone, it’s likely you’re not the only one. You don’t need to wait for your manager to bring this up.
“Would you like to grab a (real or virtual) coffee?”
If you feel isolated, invest in making some friends. Getting to know your coworkers at a personal level can go a long way in making work interesting and fun, not to mention building a network of resources you can reach out to for help.
Powerful Phrases to Get Your Voice in the Conversation
And now a few conversation starters to break through the silence.
“I have an idea that will ______ (insert strategic benefit statement here).”
One mistake that can cause your ideas to be overlooked is a pre-apology. For example, “This is probably a bad idea.” Or, “I’m not an expert here, but…” If you want your idea to be heard, share your idea with confidence and why it matters.
“Before we leave this conversation, I have something important to add.”
This Powerful Phrase can help when you work with a group of extroverts who talk fast and hurry to the next topic. Or, if you work remotely as part of a hybrid team and feel invisible to the people in the room with one another.
When you feel invisible, dig deeper to understand where, when, and with whom you want to be seen and ask for what you need.