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Individual Needs at Work

leadership transition Oct 19, 2023

- by Sophie Pinkoski

When it comes to motivating your team, there is one core aspect always worth considering: their needs. In fact, prioritizing individuals’ needs is a main focus within humanistic leadership in general.

Everyone has different needs according to their lifestyle and current situation.

There are several theories that break down these various needs, the predominant one being Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow’s Hierarchy outlines five levels of needs, where a higher-level need cannot be reached until basic needs are fulfilled first. For this reason, it’s important to keep in mind which of your team member’s needs are being satisfied.

Often if someone is struggling with their work, one or more of their needs are not being met.

Our emotional responses to our experiences shape who we are and everything we do. Therefore, it’s integral that teams are empowered by cultivating psychological safety that allows them the safe space to let you know when their needs aren’t being met. Have them reflect on their progress at work on a regular basis in order to identify what you can help improve for them to meet those needs. This will help them build their emotional intelligence so they can understand what’s triggering their negative emotions and stressors. From there, they can create a healthier, more productive routine to strive toward fulfilling their higher-level needs.

Here are the main needs leaders should consider for each of their team members:

Safety and certainty –– The most basic need people require to function is physical and psychological safety. Once they have food, water, shelter, and basic amenities to survive, they need to know they have a stable future in order to protect themselves and their family. From a professional perspective, this certainty translates to job security; they want to be assured they have a future in their organization.

Variety and uncertainty –– In order to engage your team in their work, you must give them a certain amount of variety in their tasks. While predictability is essential to maintaining their basic needs, the world will always have a level of uncertainty to it, particularly when it comes to things that are out of our control. Introducing variety into their work gives them the skills to adapt to sudden change.

Keeping things interesting with a variety of different tasks also drives engagement, preventing complacency in their work.

Belonging and contribution –– Once individuals have their physiological needs met, they will turn their focus toward forging social connections and finding a sense of belonging within the community.

People thrive off being seen, heard, and understood by others. They want validation for their good work so that they know they’re on the right track.

This validation goes beyond receiving acknowledgement from others and extends to knowing how their work is impacting the world at large.

Growth and esteem –– When a team is given psychological safety and validation they can put energy toward improving their capacities and skills to bring their best selves to work every day. At this stage, they can truly develop their career and continue to strive to be or stay as an expert in their field. You can offer them the resources and opportunities to empower them to keep growing and achieve their goals and the related recognition.

Because everyone’s needs and priorities are going to be vastly different from one another, there is no perfect, linear way to approach fulfilling people’s needs.

This is a constant process of balancing each need and ensuring they remain fulfilled at every level.

Give them the resources, emotional intelligence, and psychological safety to express their needs. Actively listening when they have concerns and working with them to find solutions to fulfill each of their needs is the most valuable thing you can do to empower your team.


Further Reading

Maslow, Abraham H. Motivation and Personality. Pearson: 1997

Maslow, Abraham H. Maslow on Management. Wiley: 1998

Why We Do What We Do, Tony Robbins, TED Talk

Discover the 6 Human Needs, Tony Robbins

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Applying it in the Workplace, Indeed

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs | Overview, Explanation, and Examples, Corporate Finance Institute

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Simply Psychology

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, Very Well Mind

A Guide to the 5 Levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs - 2023, MasterClass

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