After my leadership workshops, individuals who approach me tend to ask one fundamental question, “how do I get my boss to notice the work I do?”. A deeper question they’re asking is, “how do I know if I really matter?”.
Each one of us who breathes wants to know we matter. We want to know that we are cared for and that our life means something. It is a fundamental human need. We will act in outrageous ways to fulfill this yearning. No one is exempt.
For the many hours we spend each day at work, it’s understandable that professionals would want to know they matter, that they are more than just a cog in a wheel, that someone actually “sees” him or her. It’s stunning how many feel invisible. More than that, it’s deeply sorrowful. I had a woman who approached me after a company workshop who told me, in tears, that she’d been at the company for 7 years and that in the last four years, she hasn’t received very interesting work. She had resigned herself to just “getting a paycheck” until my workshop, where I told the audience that out of self-respect, we need to ask for what we want. That point connected with her. I suggested several strategies, but I knew that implementing them would be challenging. As she walked away, I sensed both hope and hopelessness within her. I don’t know what has happened since. But I know everyday, she shows up at this job, in this company, giving less that she could. Not because she’s not committed, because she seemed very loyal. Not because she didn’t want to do good work, because she has consistently done good work. But because, she felt invisible and uncared for. I feel compelled to help these individuals feel hope and take actions toward their conspicuousness. But sometimes, what the corporate culture asks of these “givers” is too much and they recede into the background, never fully realizing how much they are valued. I walk away from these encounters with a mix of hope, that they will do something different and, deep sadness, that a human feels this way, everyday, about him/herself and their role in this world.
When I talk to professionals, their need is rather minimal. They’d like to have a boss that sincerely asks how their weekend was. They’d like a boss to praise good work. They’d like to receive honest feedback on how they can be better. They’d prefer that a person who works hard gets as much of a chance for advancement as the person one who socializes hard. Managers would like to believe that they judge others objectively. But the reality is that they see others through their filters. Until they become aware that they have filters and they are willing to recognize there are different modalities of strong performance, no question, some relevant individuals will remain blind to them. That kind of blind sightedness causes the diminishment of engagement.
Is is possible to view our employees as more than productive assets? As human beings with a heart and feelings? Seeking fundamental reassurance that they matter? Whether you’re a manager or a colleague, I invite you to “see” the people in your organization. Try this for one minute. Look at the people in your group, without their roles or their names, but just look at them as people. What do you see? What does each person radiate? What does each person care about? Start there, and the answers for engagement will come to you.