Entrepreneur Fritz Maytag says, “If you ask people confidentially what they want most in their job – if they’re paid anything decent at all – they say a greater sense of self-worth.”
That statement resonates with everything I’ve been reading the past few years on workplace retention and productivity. It also ties with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – after food, shelter, and safety are covered, people want to feel like they belong to something worthwhile, that they are accepted, and that they matter.
One of the most disheartening things I ever heard was when a supervisor told an employee that he was worthless. The employee was distraught for days. “Why show up?” he asked. “Why should I put forth any effort at all if my supervisor calls me worthless in front of my coworkers?”
You can see the ripple-effect.
Here are a few things to do to build self-worth in others:
- Give them the big picture. Let them see how their work affects the end product.
- Involve them in decision-making. Their input not only provides a balanced perspective, but also gains their buy-in on the decision.
- Sincerely listen. Look them in the eye and tune everything else out – especially when they’ve got an issue that’s troubling them.
Some managers distain giving their workers the big picture. This happens for several reasons. Sometimes it’s insecurity. Other times it’s a belief that the rank and file doesn’t have a “need to know.” And at other times it’s just because the managers don’t want to burden their employees with things outside their circle of influence.
Although I agree there’s no reason to divulge every detail of a strategic plan, providing a big picture plan to everyone helps them see—and therefore buy into—the organization’s vision.
Granted, armchair quarterbacks exist in most organizations and it’s certainly going to take a bit of extra effort to explain the big picture to some people, but I believe the return on investment is worth it.
One of the reasons it’s going to be worth is benefits in the second point: It opens the door to involving them in decision-making. When people are asked their opinions about the big picture, they provide perspectives sometimes missed by upper management. At one manufacturing plant in know of, plans were in place to alter the physical plant and change production flow. Although the alteration was going to be expensive, the payoff annually was to be in the millions. Thankfully, someone from upper management took the plans to the shop floor to share the big picture with the employees. As the employees reviewed the plans, they found several unneeded items plus had a few suggestions for a better design.
The manager considered their input, and saw that not only did their ideas save on the initial cost of the project, but annual payback would be even higher than originally projected.
The key for managers is don’t let ego or insecurities get in the way of listening to your employees. As one manager says, “I used to be part of the crew, and I always had ideas on how something could be better, but nobody would listen to me. Now that’s I’m a manager, I haven’t forgotten what that was like – I always seek input from others.”
Finally, much of developing self-worth in others is tied together by sincerely listening. You know when people are listening intently and when they’re listening with other things on their mind. And you know how it feels in each situation. To build self-worth in others, we must listen to others with full attention. What is the other person thinking? What is he feeling?
Also, paraphrasing back their input lets them know that you’ve understood, as well as allowing you to ensure you heard things correctly. This can be as simple as starting your paraphrase with, “So if I understand you correctly, you’re saying …”
You’d be surprised what these things can do to build self-worth in others. People what to feel heard, and they want to feel they’re doing something worthwhile. Show them that what they’re doing is worthwhile, and you build loyalty, appreciation, increased productivity, and in a way, a better society.