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Seasoned workers are questioning their value — what would you do?

Tough Call: The Invisible Man

Your company has become so focused on attracting young talent that seasoned workers like you are questioning your value. What would you do?

You’ll never forget your first day at Startup Lumber back in 1998. What your new employer lacked in resources, it more than made up for in encouragement, positive energy, and a can-do (and will-do) attitude from the owners. Your company was the underdog, and better-established competitors derided the fact that much of the crew (including you) had little experience.

As it turned out, several builders were happy to give a young startup company a chance, so they rolled the dice… and your company delivered. It didn’t take long before Startup Lumber had carved a healthy niche in serving small custom builders and pro remodelers. In those early years, the owners of your company truly appreciated all that you and your colleagues did. They made sure to thank you privately and recognize you in front of your peers. You were all learning together, building something that mattered, and that led to very low turnover. Indeed, most of the original employees are still there.

Over the past couple of years, as sales have grown significantly resulting in you and your colleagues working longer and harder, your company began to aggressively focus on attracting young people as employees. At first, this was very welcome—both for the infusion of fresh ideas and energy, and for the help with the increased workload. But as the new people have come aboard, there’s a growing sense among you and your colleagues that your roles are less valued.

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You’ve seen the job ads and the generous signing bonus and starting pay your company is offering—which is dangerously close to what you’re earning after more than 20 years with the company. But it’s not just the money. It’s the extended vacation that they’re offered in their first year with the company—which you had to work years to earn. It’s the job flexibility that they enjoy because quality of life is important to young professionals. But the flexibility they enjoy requires you and your colleagues to take on their duties. And what about your family, and your quality of life?

Though you were a key part of getting Startup Lumber off the ground and building it into what it is today, you’re feeling like your newest co-workers are getting pay levels that they haven’t earned and are being celebrated and rewarded for things you and your long-term colleagues do day-in and day-out, with no thank yous or recognition. You’re feeling invisible, and you don’t like it. What would you do?

– MOVE ON. With your experience, you’ll have no trouble securing a new job with healthy pay and benefits, with a company that truly values what you bring to the table.

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– TALK IT OUT. Sit down with the owner, tell them what you’re thinking, and ask how important you are to the future of Startup Lumber. Put the ball in their court, and see where they stand.

– LEAVE IT ALONE. You earn a good living, are paid well, have solid benefits, and enjoy the people you work with. Focus on what you have, not what you don’t.

– DEMAND MORE. Do your research, find out what someone with your experience, skills, and responsibilities earns elsewhere. Then demand that they match it, or you’re out.

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What would you do?

Something else?
If you’d take a different plan of attack, email your suggested solution to If we publish your reply, we’ll send you an LBM Journal mug.

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