In my most recent Article, Employee Hierarchy of Needs: Part 1 of 3, Basic Needs, I described Abraham Maslow’s 1943 Theory of Human Motivation and the idea of a Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow proposed the concept that humans are motivated to attain certain needs (basic needs, psychological needs, and self-fulfillment needs), and some needs are prioritized over other needs (basic needs must be met before fulfilling psychological needs, etc.).
In Part 1, I described an employee’s basic needs in the workplace: workspace and security & stability.
When an employer meets an employee’s basic needs in the workplace, employees start to feel like they have an adequate workspace and are secure & stable in their job. With these basic needs met, employees can become successful and proficient in their job duties, and work with diligence and persistence. But doing a job proficiently and persistently doesn’t mean an employee is engaged. Now it’s time for psychological needs, team camaraderie and individual achievement, to be recognized and addressed in the workplace.
Psychological Needs #1: Team Camaraderie
Most of us spend at least 40 hours or more at work, which means we typically spend more time with our coworkers than anyone else in our life. The relationships we have within the workplace are critical to a successful and enjoyable work environment. We want to feel like we belong to the group and we need different types of relationships with other humans.
It is counterproductive for an employer, leader, or employee to discount the importance of positive workplace relationships. Have you ever heard someone say, “We are here to work, not make friends”? This approach sets an individual or organization up for failure because team camaraderie is vital to the success of an organization. Psychological safety, trust, a sense of belonging to a team, and positive workplace relationships are all things that must be promoted within a team in order for an organization to achieve the best organizational end result.
Why does team camaraderie come before individual achievement on the hierarchy? An individual can be successful and achieve on their own, but individual achievement does not always set a team up for greater success. If a team has one or more people focused on their own success and achievement over others, the team will not function as cohesively and successfully as they might if the individuals first feel accountable to their fellow members.
Getting the best result as a team requires collaboration with others before individual achievement. Zen Workplace uses Olympic athletes as an example: In many cases, Olympic athletes compete as individuals. But what drives the greatest individual performance? The connection to the team, the accountability to each other and the support from one another. Rarely does an individual athlete, who spent their time locked away in a gym training by themselves for years, come out on top. It is the same idea for the world of work.
Think back to a time when you were on a dysfunctional team. What happened when one or more team members focused more on their individual achievement than the achievement of the group? How did that make you feel? Did you feel like they were trying to put their own achievement over your own? Did you become suspicious and lose trust? What was the outcome?
Psychological Needs #2: Individual Achievement
Once team camaraderie has been established, it is easier for an individual to focus on their own achievement. Our society and culture has trained us to be modest, and it is hard for most of us to express overt pride in our work. We don’t want to seem like a showoff, or like we are bragging. But, if organizations are to reach the next level of an employee’s hierarchy of needs, where employees feel engaged in their work, organizations must promote confidence, self-esteem, and pride among their employees. When employees lack pride or confidence in their individual contributions it is difficult for them to begin taking initiative and pursue their responsibilities and job duties with passion.
When a team has a solid foundation of trust formed through their team camaraderie, individual achievement becomes something the team celebrates as a whole instead of feeling competitive, negative, and bitter. When you have genuine happiness and pride for your teammates’ accomplishments, the feeling of camaraderie is reinforced through positive feedback and gratitude.
When your team cares about how their fellow members perform and achieve, they begin to feel like their own work matters to other people. They can begin to feel like they are making an impact. Individual team member achievement becomes so much more than the achievement itself. Instead of focusing on just the achievement, individuals begin to feel like they are contributing to the greater whole, something bigger than themselves. This sense of altruism promotes employee engagement.
Connecting the Dots
Promoting a work environment where the psychological needs of employees can be met is vital to the success of an organization. When organizations, departments, or individual teams lack team camaraderie and do not promote individual achievement, they will never have employees who are fully engaged. Unfortunately, it seems as though this is typical for many organizations worldwide. As I described in my article, How to Increase Employee Engagement: Treat Your Employees like They Matter, only about 15% of employees worldwide are engaged. Non-engaged employees lack the commitment and connection to their company that engaged employees feel. This lack of engagement may be a result of a cutthroat culture, or the idea that it’s every individual for themselves. The lack of support through team camaraderie and the difficulty expressing pride in their work may be one of the factors leading to this lack of engagement.
Have you experienced a work environment where you had great team camaraderie? Have you worked within an organization where you did not feel like people were jealous and bitter of your achievements? How did this influence your productivity and engagement in the workplace?
This was originally posted on LinkedIn on February 23rd, 2018. See the full post here.
Please check the second article in this series, Employee Hierarchy of Needs, Part 3 of 3: Self-Fulfillment Needs.
If you missed Part 1 on Basic Needs, you may read it here.