By some accounts, more than 70% of people who leave their jobs do so because of their boss. Yeah, it really is that bad. When people work in an environment where they just don’t get a good vibe, they simply quit. This is especially true for Millennials.
Yet the science shows that creating a great workplace is really not all that difficult. In this short video I’m going to let you know what all of us are yearning for from our bosses.
As a coach, public speaker and best-selling author I teach topics just like this one all around the world so stay tuned and I’ll give you practical tools that you can use to make both yourself and those around you both happier and more successful.
Look, we all have basic needs that must be met in order for us to feel good about our lives. Perhaps the best-known model of this is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This model can be effectively applied to the world of paid work too.
I have a reference tool that you can use and you can download it using the download form on this page.
Obviously, some needs are so basic. If we don’t meet our basic biological needs for food, clothing, shelter and medicine we cannot be happy. Your employer must, therefore, at a bare minimum pay you a living wage. You know is it any wonder that the fast-food industry has a 150 percent staff turnover rate. In these low-wage jobs not even the most basic needs are met.
At the next most basic level we must have some assurance that we’re safe.
Tragically, a lot of my past work was focused on just this most fundamental of workplace rights. Your employer must create a physical environment, including equipment and work processes, that ensure every worker gets home in one piece at the end of each and every workday. Sadly, this is too often not the case. But I’m sure you’ll agree that along with decent pay we require that our work not kill or maim us. Here’s where it starts to get interesting.
At the next level of the hierarchy we tribal humans must feel we belong in our community. We have social connections that we value. We feel welcomed and supported by other people. Given how much time we put into our work lives, it’s essential that we feel some bonds of
true friendship at work.
In my career, there have always been people I felt love—in the true sense of the word—for some colleagues. Seeing them at work every day lifted my spirits and made me feel great.
So your boss must create social conditions for people to bond meaningfully. Unfortunately, this is pretty easy to do. You make a good lunchroom, you create some informal meeting spaces where people can chat, you have a relaxed management style which encourages friendly banter.
Obviously, don’t be overbearing and insist on minute by minute productivity. Create social events outside of work and, on a personal level, your boss should make an effort to get to know you. If she doesn’t know your name, that’s a disaster. If she actually knows a bit about your personal ife, like how many kids you have and what some of your outside interests are, all the better.
Some bosses are great at the so-called MBWA, method. This is the “manage by walking around” method. If it comes naturally to someone it can be amazing. I encourage leaders that I train to start the day exactly this way.
First thing in the morning our chats with other folks tends to be less business. We’re more personal at this time of day. We aren’t yet fully switched on to the demands for productivity, so in a small office of a dozen or so people the boss should take a half an hour at the start of the day to just wander around. No agenda, no productivity check-ins. Instead, just be curious.
Engage people, ask them questions about themselves without interrogating anyone. Learn about your employees’ personal lives. This style of management deeply helps people feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. Moreover, it role models the kind of social behaviors that you want your employees to engage in amongst themselves. This meets Maslow’s third need for human fulfillment.
At the next level we need to feel good about ourselves and the contribution we’re making at work. Maslow calls this esteem.
A boss, of course, cannot make this happen but he or she can create conditions where high self esteem at work is much much more likely. This is often challenging for some bosses to figure out. They tend to make two kinds of mistakes.
The worst one is indifference. You know most of us have probably worked for someone who basically doesn’t care. They don’t really know what’s going on in the workplace, who’s doing what, and they don’t set any standards for performance. They’re just basically sitting back and letting the work unfold. This is the kind of guy that never acknowledges your work, basically ignores you and others. The manager who always has his door closed to his office may be an obvious example of this style of poor leadership, but it’s also too common in the gregarious self-absorbed leader.
Helping people see their work as making a meaningful contribution is not about the big THANK YOU following a completion of a project or the once a year staff appreciation
event. It’s not about carefully saying thank you after every transaction or every task done. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they aren’t usually organic nor personally meaningful.
So what we are talking about here is a specific kind of appreciation. I call it recognition. Recognition is a subtle art and when done right it has an authenticity to it that powerfully impacts the recipient. It’s simply stating what is true, seeing what someone has done and stating what you observed and what the impact of the work had.
You might say to an administrative assistant, “You know, that summary of statistics you prepared was really well understood at this morning’s meeting. Now Sally’s actually planning to use your work to kickstart an analysis of her team’s productivity. What you did really made a difference.” Nothing else has to be said.
For higher level professionals it may sound something like this “Gee Dave, I was thinking about that case management meeting that you facilitated yesterday. Everyone got a clear, concise summary of the file. I was impressed how we got good action plans to move forward on. You brought a meaningful conversation and I feel good about the core forward plan. I love meetings that go that well.”
In both these examples, saying thanks was unnecessary.
In fact, it may actually detract from the observation of the impact of the quality work done by someone. This kind of recognition really resonates. It shows that the boss is aware of the good work you do and she knows the substantial impact that you were having on desired outcomes. It’s pretty awesome so far, right?
The highest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is what he called self-actualization. Here, Maslow believed that when earlier needs are met, everyone simply wants to grow to be the best that they can be in an occupational setting.
This really means giving people space to creatively apply the professional skills and creativity to achieve their personal best.
Many organizations, especially big bureaucratic ones, really struggle with giving people the freedom to figure out their own field of practice. But when bosses push rote business processes to the side, at least a little, then your stars can really shine. Smart organizations set standards of performance, not processes, that ensure lowest-common-denominator compliance.
When people see a standard to meet, such as customer service scores, and have the freedom to bring their own best selves to this end, amazing things can happen.
You probably know this from your own experience. When you can bring your own skills and ideas to accomplishing a goal, not only are you way more motivated, but you innovate and you exceed expectations. Rather than calling this self-actualization, I think, appropriately, we can call this need in a workplace autonomy. This need for autonomy is especially necessary for high-level professionals. If you’re working at a factory it may be absolutely untenable to bring your creativity to the way you do your job.
Consistent, exacting procedures may be required. By contrast, if I’m a lawyer or an architect, then my work will definitely be its best when I’m given lots of leeway to find my own path to better outcomes. Beyond meeting basic needs for decent pay and workplace safety, organizational development scholars have long described the three psychological needs that workers need is belonging, appreciation—which I prefer to call recognition—and autonomy. Oddly, a new basic need has come to the fore now that Millennials occupy a lot of the active workforce. These young professionals bring a particular outlook on life that completely changes the workforce from its essential characteristics.
This millennial need is related to self-actualization and is exciting and liberating for all workers. Watch my next video to learn about the special case of Millennials. And here’s your bonus. The PDF at the link in the description below provides a model of Maslow’s Hierarchy, which I have adapted for the workplace.
I’ve made it just for you, so I hope you like it. Now it’s my life’s mission to help the world be a bit happier, so please like and share this post and you’ll make the world happier too. If you like this kind of video content, please subscribe to my Youtube channel. See you next time.