Basic things motivate all human beings. According to Abraham Maslow's book, Motivation and Personality, our basic needs are food, water and oxygen. Then our needs move to security and safety, and finally a sense of belonging, love and self-esteem. At work, our basic needs are to be fairly compensated, to feel a part of an organization, to establish individual self-worth and to receive respect from others within the organization.
As the supervisor, you are key to developing an office environment that supports and provides these basic needs. If the leadership is not what it should be, it will be reflected in the attitude of your staff.
What can supervisors do to foster an environment that promotes individual self-worth and respect?
- Choose your words carefully.
You can probably recall instances in your own life where a few words - either positive or negative - made a significant difference in your life. Words have tremendous weight. Words have the power to encourage, help and teach; words also can confuse, embarrass, hurt and ruin relationships. Verbal abuse and yelling are never productive.
- Give people freedom to do their job.
Staff members' basic workplace needs can not be fulfilled unless the supervisor gives them the freedom and trust to do the job they have been hired to do. People want to make meaningful contributions to the university. When continually monitored and micromanaged, most staff members become miserable and tend to "check out." They may come to work and do their job, but in a perfunctory and minimalist fashion - everyone loses.
It is important to treat the people who work for you with the same respect you expect to receive from your supervisor.
- Thank people for their contributions.
It's a commonly accepted fact that everyone needs recognition. So, why don't more supervisors take the time to let staff know their work is appreciated? Perhaps it's because we're conditioned to applaud only superhuman effort. In those rare moments that workers are required to complete a Herculean task, we can be moved to offer a pat on the back. But what about the rest of the time . . . all those average days when people are quietly doing their jobs, keeping customers happy and the office on track? Do we recognize those efforts - or leave staff to feel no one notices or cares? One top assistant interviewed by Working Woman magazine said, "If I had an ego, this job would be demoralizing."
We all know that we should set aside more time to thank our staff and colleagues for their good work. Although most of us have the best intentions to do so, few of us show our appreciation often enough.
It can be a challenge to assess what is really happening in your own area. "Ask first, tell later" is the number one concept Bob Parsons of Thomson University stresses at his seminars on motivating workers. Why? Because 90 percent of issues with supervisors occur when staff members feel they are not being listened to. Parsons recommends asking good open-ended questions; instead of telling staff how they feel, ask them.
Admittedly, attending to the basics is not as easy as 1, 2, 3. To the contrary, it requires ongoing deliberate thought and attention