As I have grown and matured, I have discovered that some words have very different meanings, depending on how they are used. I recall when I was younger, this was confusing to me.
I attended a high-rated public school system in New Jersey. Our English teachers did a fabulous job at teaching us the difference between “there, their and they’re” as well as “affect and effect” to name a few. But somehow, the meaning and use of words with the root “value” were either overlooked or ignored. Or maybe I didn’t place enough value on them.
One of the first times I was hung up by this was Christmas, 1977. I purchased a snow scraper for my older brother for use with his new truck. It was a special snow scraper with a long handle. I thought this would be great for him to reach the middle of the windshield. The first time we had snow and ice he used the scraper and told me the gift was “invaluable.” I was heartbroken! I had put so much thought into his gift and was devastated that he found it to be worthless. When he realized my misunderstanding, he corrected me, explaining that it was such a perfect gift, it was beyond value. It was priceless and so wonderful he could not place a value on that ice scraper. The ice scraper was valuable. And me, the little sister, was valued for having thought of it.
As I entered the work force and moved into management, this concept remained an enigma to me.
Valuable or Valued. What is the difference and what do they mean? During performance evaluations and at retirement dinners, I would often hear the phrases, “A valued employee” or “Valuable to the company.” As uncertain as I was to the meaning, I now believe many others are uncertain, too.
The dictionary defines VALUABLE as having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities; of great use or service.
Additionally, the dictionary defines VALUED as highly regarded or esteemed; having a specific kind of value.
These definitions seem similar, so it is understandable that i don’t always know when to use which word.
As I prepared my end-of-year performance reviews for my employees, I looked deeply into each of them. In their own special way, each one is extremely valuable to the organization and to the success of our laboratory. They are all unique, and are valuable in different ways. One is my “go-to- girl.” When a crisis occurs, I can count on her to assist. One is the ultimate “relief pitcher.” She is able to work almost every extra shift asked, and jumps in without a warm up. And one is my “workhorse.” All I have to do is point the direction of the work and everything in her path is accomplished. Sometimes she won’t eat or drink until the job is done.
But I have to ask myself, “Do I take the time to let them know they are valued?” “Have I done enough to demonstrate to them and those around us in the organization how valued they are?” “Is it too late to start now?” The answer to the last question is easy. The only time it’s too late is when they are already gone.
As I reflect on my career, I am proud to feel as though I have been a valuable member of every lab team on which I have served. In my own opinion, I was of great use or service. But there have been times when I have not felt valued. I have not always felt highly regarded or esteemed. And yes, for some, it is too late.
I encourage you, supervisors, managers, and directors, to make sure your team knows they are valuable and that they are valued. They are not the same. And it does make a difference.