Blog

December 7, 2017
Fear of Missing Out in the Office: Tips for Understanding Your Value and Impact

FOMO. Even if you aren’t familiar with the acronym, you’ve likely encountered it.

“Fear of Missing Out” is that sinking feeling you get when you feel like you are being left behind. Like when you are scoping out your friends’ Instagram shots during a fun Saturday night, while you are stuck on your couch in your flannel PJs, taking down a pint of Halo Top, and binge-watching Sons of Anarchy.  Regardless of how FOMO might hit you, it’s becoming ever more commonplace in today’s hyper-connected, share-everything-with-everyone society.

While FOMO can sting in our personal lives, it’s potentially even more dramatic when it creeps into our professional lives. Think about it. There’s a huge world out there, and there is always something to get involved with or people to connect with if you are motivated to make it happen; you are in control of how involved you want to be in your own life. However, at work, you typically don’t get to choose your team or the people you partner with on a daily basis. Assuming all of these co-workers share your same aspirational desire to continue to learn, grow and develop, it can be really painful if you feel stuck on the sidelines while you watch them get called in for exciting projects and opportunities.

Rather than wallow in self-pity, here are four simple approaches about how to get off the bench and get in the game.

TAKE A LOOK IN THE MIRROR.

It’s shocking that even some of the most skilled people have glaringly limited self-awareness.  People often think they are crushing it at work, but don’t understand their blind spots or have an accurate read on how others view them.  For example, you might think you are so valuable, you should be included in every meeting that touches your world. Is this realistic though? Take a beat to evaluate your role, and what value you add to your team and organization.  Do you truly need to be in those meetings, or do you just want to be? Most companies try to limit who’s involved not to be dismissive; it’s because at some point it just becomes inefficient to have too many people involved. That said, if you really are being left out of things that you should be involved in, it’s up to you to do that self-evaluation. Are you behaving in some way that would cause others to feel like they are better off without your input? Maybe people are reading you as overwhelmed, so they don’t want to throw more on your plate. Or maybe they view you as someone who talks over everyone else’s ideas, and jams your own point of view. Not sure why it’s happening? Instead of suffering from FOMO, ask your manager or trusted colleague for feedback. It might be a little scary, but you just might get some much needed insight that allows you to thrive going forward.

MAKE CONNECTIONS.

Once you’ve developed a little more clarity on why you actually may be left out of things, get friendly. That means, get out of your own head, and start connecting with your co-workers. This doesn’t mean you need to become insanely extroverted, but it does suggest that the more time you spend developing relationships (think sharing a cup of coffee, eating lunch with the team, offering to pitch in to help someone wrap up at night) the more likely people will include you going forward. Anytime someone raises their hand and says, “I’ll help...what can I do to pitch in?” I’m inclined to find a role for them. If they deliver with a great attitude, I remember and proactively reach out to them the next time. I won’t play into people’s FOMO, but I’ll sure reward those with opportunity if they earn it.

UNDERSTAND YOUR VALUE CONTRIBUTION.

People should be included in projects because they will add high impact, not because of their title or years of experience. To be included, you need to add value. A few years ago, we identified two up-and-comers as having unique skill sets to aid us in orchestrating our town hall meetings. So talented are both, they now partner with our CEO each month to plan and execute these meetings. Their unique value contributions allow them direct access and have netted them additional new opportunities. Find your value, offer it to others, and deliver impact. Do this, and you won’t be sitting on the sidelines for long.

NEVER, EVER GIVE UP.

This isn’t a “I gave it a shot but I’m still benched” kind of scenario. If you continue to be passed over, you need to have a heart-to-heart with your manager. While it would be outstanding if they would be direct and clear on why this is occurring, you might need to ask some direct questions to get to the root cause. Then really listen to the feedback.  Maybe there are some legitimate reasons.  Maybe you have a great attitude, but your work quality isn’t as great as you think it is. Maybe you are making this all about what you want as opposed to what’s in the best interest of the team. Apply the feedback; act on it. And don’t give up.  If you are following the above steps, it will happen for you.


Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.