What Happens When People Feel Devalued: The Tooth Fairy Pillow Debacle

Sep 14, 2020

“The struggle to feel valued is one of the most insidious and least acknowledged issues in organizations.” Tony Schwartz

Ellasyn, our youngest granddaughter, couldn’t believe her ears when Mimi offhandedly suggested, “Why don’t you use the Tooth Fairy pillow I made for your sister?” Brynlee, Ellasyn’s older sister, panicked!

Mimi didn’t know that sharing a Tooth Fairy pillow violates every standard of personal dignity known to kiddom! So, while Ellasyn’s first deciduous tooth hangs in there, Mimi rushes to knit a second Tooth Fairy pillow.

How do people feel after spending time with you?

Baby teeth:

Generally speaking we end up with 20 baby teeth. We lose them between the ages of 6 and 12 years.

The tooth-fairy-rate currently stands at $4.03 in the U.S. – Less in the Midwest and more on the West coast. The equivalent is €3.40 and $5.26 Canadian.

When I was a kid we stashed our baby teeth in plastic sandwich bags and the cash rate was $0.50 per tooth. (Sometimes it was a Kennedy half dollar.) Joyfully, the first tooth fetched a paper dollar.

I shouldn’t complain. The tooth-fairy-payout of a $1.00 when I was a kid is worth $8.75 today.

It never bothered me when the tooth fairy forgot my tooth because teeth, like real estate, gain value over time. A two-day old tooth often doubled in value. But I digress.


#1. Devalued people resist.

#2. Devalued people pull back.

#3. Make people feel important.

Ellasyn felt devalued at the thought of sharing her sister’s Tooth Fairy pillow.

Use interactions to elevate people’s sense of dignity and worth.

How do people feel after spending time with you?

Mary Kay Ash said, “Pretend that every single person you encounter has a sign around their neck that says, ‘make me feel important.’”

  1. Put away your cell phone.

  2. Notice something good about everyone.

  3. Stop looking around. Eye contact signals interest and respect.

  4. Ask, “How did you learn to do that?”

  5. Speak hard truths with forward-facing kindness.

  6. Seek input/advice. “What do you think?”

  7. Provide useful feedback.

How might you let someone know they are important before this day is over? 

Bonus lesson: Grandparents will do nearly anything to see their grandchildren smile.

Bonus material:

The Little Things that make Employees Feel Appreciated (HBR)

How to Make Employees Feel Valued (HR Daily)

No Excuses: The Power of Self-Discipline (Brian Tracy)

By Dan Rockwell