Employee’s Hierarchy of Needs, Part 3 of 3: Self-Fulfillment Needs

The top tier of the hierarchy of needs includes self-fulfillment needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs - self-fulfillment needs

In the first two parts of this series, Part 1: Basic Needs and Part 2: Psychological Needs, I described Abraham Maslow’s 1943 Theory of Human Motivation and the idea of a Hierarchy of Needs. As humans, we all strive to achieve our full potential and feel a sense of self-fulfillment. Before we can reach the highest level in our hierarchy of needs (self-fulfillment), we must first ensure our lower levels of basic (physiological and safety) and psychological (belongingness & love and esteem) needs are addressed.

employee basic and psychological needs

This same theory of motivation and a hierarchy of needs can be applied to employees in the workplace. In Part 1 I described how the physiological need equates to the need of adequate workspace and the safety need equates to security & stability in the workplace. In Part 2 I described how the belongingness & love needs convert to team camaraderie in the workplace and esteem needs match individual achievement in the workplace.

These basic and psychological needs must be met in the workplace before an employee can achieve a sense of self-fulfillment, or engagement & innovation.

Employee Hierarchy of Needs - self-fulfillment

If you address the first four levels of the employee’s hierarchy of needs, you’ve given your employees the tools they need to succeed and it’s likely they will have the potential to be truly engaged. By reaching the top level of the hierarchy, employees are given the opportunity to meet their self-fulfillment needs. Your employees will begin to feel a sense of ownership over their work and sense will empower them to continue working toward the greater good of the company while simultaneously inspiring those around them to do the same.

There will always be little things that go wrong, but employees who exist in the self-fulfillment tier of the hierarchy will be able to look past these things and focus on the work in front of them with intrinsic drive, passion, imagination, and creativity.

Once employees make it to the top tier of the hierarchy, it’s a lot easier for them to stay at this level and bring other employees with them. Employees at the self-fulfillment level inspire those around them and create a ripple effect of engagement. Their enthusiasm and attitude help others strive to operate at their same level and engagement becomes contagious.

It is important to remember that moving through the hierarchy of needs is fluid; we can always be bumped down to a lower level of the hierarchy and we can climb our way back to the top. This means we have to work through challenges and barriers to get back to the top, which can sometimes be difficult to deal with. However, once employees reach the top of the pyramid, it becomes much easier to get back there the next time around.

It is a long and difficult journey to help employees reach the top of the employee hierarchy. That’s why true employee engagement is so rare! According to Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged at work. After working through this hierarchy, it’s easier to understand why.

If only 15% of employees worldwide are engaged and exist at the top of their hierarchy, where does everyone else fall? About 67% of employees are considered “not engaged.” These employees likely have their basic needs met and are looking to meet their psychological needs. The remaining 18% fall into the “actively disengaged” category. These employees are probably struggling to have their basic workplace needs met.

The big challenge for employers involves identifying the “not engaged” employees. These employees are often the hardest to identify because they are usually relatively happy or satisfied in their role. They do the bare minimum and are not invested in their company’s mission, values, vision, or goals.

Connecting the Dots

When reviewing the hierarchy as a whole, the first two tiers of employee engagement are generally covered by compensation, stability, security, and benefits. Some workplaces need to address basic resources so employees can do their jobs (technology, temperature, workspace, etc.) but in general, the first two tiers should be easy to confront as an employer. In addition, our need for social interaction, friendship, and belongingness can at least be partially addressed while at work. It’s the last two tiers that can be the trickiest to address.

When it comes to individual achievement, each person is different in the way they want to be recognized or respond to motivation. This takes more effort on the employers side to individualize the experience for employees. The critical point (no pun intended) is the top level, self-fulfillment, which is the hardest aspect of employee engagement for most employers and organizations to achieve.

When organizations provide the tools, the education, the environment, and the stability, employees can realize their potential. They start contributing ideas, leading, and bringing others along for the ride by inspiring them to be better employees. Reaching the self-fulfillment level of engagement gives employees the opportunity to inspire others around them and perform optimally – which is not only best for your employees, it is best for business.

It is important to see engagement as a day-to-day experience that ebbs and flows. Engagement is not something that will happen overnight, and change is hard. Engagement should improve with time and dedication from all levels of an organization. If an organization focuses on the day-to-day experience, the benefits of achieving or striving for engagement will become evident.

Self-fulfillment needs

 

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement, please review my services here and contact me here.

This was originally posted on LinkedIn on March 7th, 2018. See the full post here.

If you missed Part 1 on Basic Needs, you may read it here.

If you missed Part 2 on Psychological Needs, you may read it here.

*Credit to Zen Workplace and Health Links for the employee engagement hierarchical/framework concept.

 

Employee Hierarchy of Needs, Part 2 of 3: Psychological Needs

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

Team CamaraderieMost 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.

team win

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?

individual celebrationPsychological 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.

group celebrationWhen 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.

altruismWhen 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 DotsConnecting 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?

employee basic and psychological needs

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement, please review my services here and contact me here.

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.

*Credit to Zen Workplace and Health Links for the employee engagement hierarchical/framework concept.

How One Toxic Person Can Destroy Company Culture

toxic photo - poison

I saw someone once write on a social media post: as an employer, it’s hard to find someone who actually wants to work. No matter how much you praise them or do nice things for them they aren’t loyal to you in the end.

When I first read their comment, I cringed. As an employee, I wouldn’t want to work for someone with that type of mindset because I believe it sets them up for failure as an employer. If my employer believes I will not be loyal to them, no matter what they do, it makes me think they won’t do anything out of the ordinary to keep me around, which makes me feel less loyal to them. But, from an employer perspective, if you feel like you’ve been good to your employees and they leave anyway, how could you not feel this way?

On the other hand, as an employee, why is it so easy to remember the bad things (the bad bosses, the bad work situations, etc.) and so hard to focus on any of the good (or even okay) things?

frustrated

What if I told you there is scientific evidence backing up why our brains focus on the negative aspects of employment more than the positive? By no means is this breaking news; in an article published in 2001, titled “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” researchers describe how humans and other animals may be evolutionarily wired to react this way:

From our perspective, it is evolutionarily adaptive for bad to be stronger than good. We believe that throughout our evolutionary history, organisms that were better attuned to bad things would have been more likely to survive threats and, consequently, would have increased probability of passing along their genes.

stacked papersTo make a point, the authors reviewed over 230 studies on the following topics: relationships, emotions, learning, neurological processes, child development, social support, information processing, memory, stereotypes, forming impressions, self-concept, feedback, and health to name a few.

The consistent factor between these 230+ studies revealed the impact of bad things is significantly worse than the power of good things. In other words: when one bad thing happens, five good things must happen to counteract the bad thing.

happy night - umbrella with lightsThe research suggests our desire to get out of a bad mood is stronger than our desire to get into a good one. Bad interactions, ones that feel unfriendly or conflictual, are interpreted in a stronger way. These bad interactions have bigger effects than equally friendly, nice, or harmonious ones. Thus, the bulk of our emotion regulation is directed at escaping from bad moods and negative emotions because bad moods and negative emotions have a stronger effect than good ones.

How does this apply to employees, bosses, managers, and organizations?

crazy papers flying

One bad apple can ruin it all. Bad things like negative emotions, abuse, dysfunctional acts (like intentionally slacking off), hostility, destructive relationships, and incompetence can ruin organizations striving to incorporate civility, competence, effort, and other kinds of “goodness” into their environment and culture. What can we do about this?

Employees:

As an employee, we must try to focus on the positive. Increasing our number of positive interactions will help us defeat the negative interactions. The researchers suggested it is possible for good to triumph over bad by sheer numbers. Many good events (at least five) can overcome the psychological effects of a single bad event.

happy gratefulUsing techniques from positive psychology, such as expressing gratitude can help us focus on positive interactions and experiences. Remember: a little kindness goes a long way.

We must also be self-aware. When employees are not self-aware, conflict in the workplace can be toxic and destructive. We need to take a conscious look at how we express ourselves at work and how we interact with others.

QuestionMost of the time, conflict is based on some underlying fear and is an issue of interpersonal, psycho-emotional dynamics. If we are self-aware, we can ask ourselves why we react a certain way, and if this reaction is supportive or limiting to our team, department, and organization. If we are honest with ourselves, this self-awareness and insight will allow us to view and improve the way we communicate and interact with others.

When we are self-aware, and those we work with are self-aware, workplace conflict can be minimal and constructive.

Bosses, managers, and organizations:

As someone in a leadership or management position, we must try to overpower the bad with good. This involves expressing gratitude to our employees on a regular basis and constantly assessing and evaluating our employees’ level of engagement.

When it comes to stopping a bad apple or a toxic employee, the first obvious thing to do is not hire them in the first place. However, this can be hard to do even with multiple rounds of interviews.

guard & protect

Dr. Robert Sutton gives a few suggestions on how we can defeat the toxicity in his article, “How a Few Bad Apples Ruin Everything.”

  • Screen employees in realistic job conditions. Bring candidates in for a day or two and give them a short job to accomplish. Watch not only their technical skills, but also their personality. How do they deal with setbacks? Do they know when to ask for help and to give others help? Is the candidate the kind of person they want to work with? Candidates with interpersonal weaknesses may be screened out using this process.
  • The best organizations make explicit their intolerance for bad apples; they spell out which behaviors are unacceptable in the workplace and act decisively to prevent and halt them.
  • There are times, of course, when an organization can’t—or won’t—remove a destructive personality. Maybe the person is a star as well as a bad apple, for instance, or is otherwise crucial to the operation. In such cases, leaders might try to use coaching, warnings and incentives to curb the toxic employee’s behavior. Another tactic is to physically isolate the bad apple.
  • Beware: Leaders who believe destructive superstars are “too important” to fire often underestimate the damage they can do.

Connecting the dots - 2
Connecting the Dots

Scientific evidence shows we are wired to focus on the bad instead of the good, which is why it is so easy for one toxic person to ruin a company’s attempt at instilling and promoting a culture of engagement.

From an individual standpoint, we should try to consciously focus on the positive and increase our self-awareness. From a managerial or organizational perspective, we need to openly value our employees and we should not tolerate toxic behavior. We need to clearly spell out unacceptable behaviors and their consequences, and we need to be willing to fight the bad so we may protect our employees from its destructive properties.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement, please review my services here and contact me here.

This was originally posted on LinkedIn on November 9th, 2017. See the full post here.

How to Increase Engagement: Treat Your Employees like They Matter

Employee Engagement: Teamwork

People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

You’ve likely heard this saying before. Thinking back over the jobs you’ve held through the course of your life, what made you want to quit each job? Did your boss or manager play a role?

The following individual’s response is typical of many employees: “Almost every job I’ve quit had to do with reasons associated with those who were supposed to manage or lead. I can also say I’ve never felt like I’ve had a great boss. I’ve had mediocre bosses who did not make my life miserable, but I’ve never had a boss who motivated or inspired me to do great things. In short, I’ve never felt truly engaged as an employee.”

Happiness at work

Employees who feel engaged? Just 15% worldwide.

According to Gallup, a research-based, global performance-management consulting company, only 15% of employees worldwide feel engaged at work. Employees in the US are about twice as engaged, landing at 33%.

There are many different definitions of employee engagement, and they all revolve around a common theme: emotional commitment and attachment to one’s workplace and fellow employees. Engaged employees feel a profound connection and commitment to their company; they work with passion, they are loyal, and they are willing to go the extra mile.

Brent Gleeson says engaged employees “enthusiastically invest in their work and take on responsibilities outside of their job description. They are generally more likely to become emerging leaders and will stay with an organization much longer than non-engaged employees.”

disengaged employee67% of Employees Worldwide are Not Engaged and 18% are Actively Disengaged.

If 15% of employees worldwide are engaged, where is the remaining 85%? Almost 70% of employees are considered “not engaged” and 18% fall into the “actively disengaged” category. “Not engaged” employees are the hardest to identify because they are often relatively happy/satisfied in their role. They do the bare minimum and are not invested in their company’s mission, values, vision, or goals. Gleeson describes these team members as both a threat and a great opportunity. With the proper approach, employees who fall under the “not engaged” category could be transformed into engaged employees who thrive in an organization. With the wrong approach, they could become actively disengaged; transforming into negative and toxic employees, spreading toxicity throughout an organization.

Increase numbers of employee engagement

How can the numbers of engaged employees be improved?

Companies need to invest the time and energy into developing and implementing a program to provide managers with the knowledge and tools necessary to increase engagement within their teams. According to Gleeson, 70% of organizations fall significantly short of meeting their company goals when it comes to engagement. This is usually because the process takes longer than mangers, leadership, and organizations expect. Engagement is not something that will happen overnight, and change is hard. Engagement should improve with time and dedication from all levels of an organization.

workplace trust and communicationTrust and Communication.

I believe it is the responsibility of an organization and employer to create a culture and environment committed to employee engagement. If I had to offer one piece of advice to someone wanting to create a culture and environment of engagement, I would say this should be done by establishing trust and communication.

If employees don’t feel like they can sit down with their boss and openly talk about concerns, nothing will change. Leaders should communicate with their team frequently and create a safe and open environment where everyone is comfortable approaching their leaders with any concerns they may have. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, psychological safety is critical to the success of a team and the organization in which teams function.

empathy and listeningEmpathy + Listening.

Leaders should not assume they know what their employees want. In order to fully engage employees, leaders need to ask employees directly and then listen. Feedback from employees can be used by leaders to understand how to best meet their employees’ needs. Empathy helps leaders relate to those they serve – their employees. Sit down and talk with your employees. Listen to what they have to say. When your employees feel like their opinions and efforts matter to you and the organization, they are more likely to be invested in their jobs and the success of the company.

Engagement Quiz

The Engagement Quiz

In their article, Is your team engaged? Here’s a short, easy way to find out, Chester Elton and Adrian Gostick provide the Engagement Quiz. This eight-question quiz helps leaders assess their team’s engagement. Elton and Gostick suggest, “if you are a manager, ask your employees to give their honest feedback about their experience at work. (If they won’t, that should tell you something.) If you are an individual contributor, answer for yourself.”

☐ There are excellent opportunities to grow or learn new things around here.

☐ My leader regularly talks to us about our futures/career progression in positive ways.

☐ We are regularly recognized for our good work.

☐ My boss understands what drives me and gives me assignments I find motivating.

☐ We feel well-informed about organizational changes.

☐ We are free to speak up and give feedback without fear of reprisal.

☐ We feel our efforts make a difference every day.

☐ We understand the bigger mission and values of our organization.

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots.

Employee engagement is low worldwide, and people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. The first step to increasing employee engagement is through empathy and open, honest, genuine/authentic communication. Employees should feel comfortable and safe approaching their leaders with concerns.

Ask your team some questions from the Engagement Quiz, and see what types of responses you receive. If you still aren’t sure where to begin, start by treating your colleagues well. Listen to them and give them room to grow. Treating your employees like human beings rather than production machines will begin to change their perceptions of you as a leader and of the organization as a whole.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post! If you’re looking for ways to increase your organization’s level of employee engagement, please review my services here and contact me here.

This was originally posted on LinkedIn on October 31st, 2017. See the full post here.