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Job lost its joy? Do a Super Seven Needs Assessment

If work has become a chore, discover which innate human need may require attention

When work becomes a chore, we can soon start scanning job boards and dreaming of another life elsewhere. Before jumping ship though, it's worth taking some time to understand what is not working with your current employer.

Knowing what has made you want to leave can help inform a discussion with your current employer about what is missing for you and, if they can't find a fix for the situation, identify the questions to ask at an interview to ensure you don't end up in the same place!

When I am coaching someone who is unhappy at work, I'll often suggest we do a Super Seven Needs Assessment. It can be used whenever we are feeling unsettled but, it is especially useful if someone is no longer happy in a job they used to enjoy and unsure why.

The premise is that people feel good and function well when their innate physical and psychological needs are being met. If one or more is lacking, we tend to become disinterested and disengaged.

By systematically reviewing our Super Seven Needs, we can get an indication of which unmet need is leading to a feeling of dis-satisfaction.

For a client, the outcome often brings clarity to a situation that has previously seemed difficult to understand. For a coaching session, it provides focus for the conversation, as we can go on to explore what opportunities there are for improvement.

What is a need?

According to motivational theory, we are all driven by a universal set of innate needs that ensure our survival, encourage co-operation and enable us to thrive.

We are motivated to act when we sense lack or insufficiency. For example, a lack of water (dehydration) will create a need for water (thirst) which in turn drives us to seek it. Once a need is satisfied we can occupy ourselves with other things.

Maslow established a hierarchy of need categories. He proposed that a human being looked to meet each category in turn and that higher needs were not considered until lower needs were adequately satisfied.

Whilst there is debate in research circles as to the origin and ordering of these needs, they provide a relevant and useful framework with which to understand ourselves.

A blue wooden board with 7 marine themed items - 6 shells and 1 starfish

What are our Super Seven Needs?

For the purpose of a worklife wellbeing assessment, I focus on seven categories of human need.

1. Physiological

Along with food and water, the body requires warmth and shelter, in other words a comfortable environment. We also need sleep, daylight and a regular opportunity to move our bodies.

These, together with our safety needs, are sometimes considered basic or existence needs (2).

2. Safety and security

We have a need to feel physically and psychologically safe, to live without threat and have access to help if we need it. Part of feeling safe is having a sense of predictability or routine to our lives.

When we don’t feel safe our flight/fight or stress response is activated leading to poor rest and recovery functions. It also takes the creative, logical thinking part of the brain offline making us single-focused and likely to dwell on our challenges and difficulties.

3. Control and autonomy

We all need to feel a sense of control over our lives and that we have a choice in what we do and how we behave.

When we feel a sense of agency, we take an active role in our lives. When we don't, we can very soon become distressed, passive and resentful.

4. Connection and belonging

Each of us needs other people to some degree. For our ancestors safety was found in community; without each other, the human race would simply not have survived. Naturally social beings, we are wired for connection and collaboration.

Feeling liked and understood by another creates connection. Whilst being part of a group or community provides us with a sense of belonging. Without these, loneliness is common.

5. Recognition and achievement

We have a need to feel accepted, respected and valued by others. This feeds our need for belonging and gives us a sense of status in group settings.

Whilst our self-confidence, self-esteem and self-respect flow from our own recognition of our abilities, competence and knowledge.

6. Personal growth and development

Self-determination theory (2) posits that we each have a tendency to move towards growth and mastery.

Unlike previous needs, this need is not driven by lack but through a wish to grow and develop, to stretch and become. It brings with it a sense of achievement, competency and satisfaction.

7. Meaning and purpose

Like Personal Growth this is not driven by lack but from a wish to serve and contribute to the greater good.

NB Although Maslow originally proposed that needs are hierarchical and that we look to meet each in turn starting with our basic needs, I prefer to see them as an inter-connected system of needs.

A pie chart of seven pieces. Each labelled with a super seven need
Our Super Seven Needs

How to do a Super Seven Needs Assessment

The Super Seven Needs Assessment assumes that you will feel happy and fulfilled, if each of these needs is being met.

By doing the Assessment we can see which might need attention, as well as where things are going well.

To determine where you are feeling dis-satisfied, systematically consider and rate each need in turn.

Ask yourself, "how much is this need being met at work?"

Use whatever scoring system you feel comfortable with. I have found 1-10 works well. A score of 1 means this need is not at all satisfied and 10 means you wouldn't change a thing.

Tip! Our needs don't have to be 100% satisfied to feel a high sense of wellbeing

Below are some aspects to think about.

Physical and biological (physiological)

What's the environment like where you work?

Is it uncomfortable physically, for example noisy? cramped? insufficiently lit? hot?

Is there a draft?

Can you meet your need for food, drink, rest, movement, the bathroom?

Are the facilities accessible, fit for purpose and clean?

Safety and security

Do you feel safe from physical and psychological harm?

Are you feeling bullied or harassed?

Do you understand what you are to do?

Are you worried about your future?

Are redundancies on the cards?

Is your contract due for renewal?

Control and autonomy

Do you have a say in what work you are to do and/or how/when it is to be delivered?

What about where you work?

Is your workload manageable?

Are you feeling micro-managed?

Connection and belonging

What's the social environment like?

Do you have friends at work or are you feeling alone/isolated?

Do colleagues help or hinder your ability to get your work done?

Is your manager sufficiently supportive?

Is there someone you can go to for help?

Recognition and achievement

Is a job well done recognised by both yourself and others?

Do you feel that you are a valued member of the workforce?

Are you getting feedback from colleagues and/or clients?

Personal growth and development

Are you learning new things or are you feeling stuck?

What opportunities are there for you to grow and develop?

Is there an area of work you would like to move into?

Have you feeling pigeon-holed?

Meaning and purpose

Are you using your skills and abilities in a way that is meaningful to you?

Do your role and work feel purposeful to you?

Do the values of the company still align with your own?

Once you have scored each one, you will have a snapshot of your current level of satisfaction and know which areas may be the issue.

I know the score, now what?

Doing the assessment is really only half of the work. The next task is to look at the lower scoring areas and determine what can be done.

Having identified which is most important, ask yourself:

"what would be happening, if this need was higher scoring?”

"did this need score higher in the past? what has changed?"

“what action could I take to move up one point?"

"how could I get this need satisfied a little more?"

"is there an action that could lift more than one area?"

Asking such questions helps us think around the topic. From there we can start to consider how we might realistically nudge the number up.

Do not stop at your first idea for getting a need better satisfied. Try to think of at least two things you could do or do differently. Then consider each in turn. What would you need to do exactly? Who else can help? Is it totally out of the question? Could it be achieved with a tweak?

Sometimes you’ll see immediately what you can do, other times you may need to take some time to reflect. If you get stuck working through options, working with another or a coach can help you explore ways to satisfy your unmet needs.

Once you have a list of options you can create a prioritised action plan.

Remember actions don't need to be earth shattering to bring about change. Start small with those you feel most able to do.


When our Super Seven Needs are sufficiently met we will feel content. When there is an imbalance we will feel unsatisfied which, over time, can lead to reduced wellbeing and/or unhelpful coping behaviours.

By doing a Super Seven Needs Assessment you can discover which innate needs are not being met. Of course, sometimes the role and/or workplace is no longer a good fit for you. The Assessment will help you know that for certain and what you want from a new position.

Take care of you.

I hope this article helps you see that we all have similar psychological needs and that when some are missing from our working lives we will naturally feel their lack.

Feel free to message me about what you discover with a Super Seven Needs Assessment and any actions it inspires you to take. I’d love to hear from you.

Interested in work-life coaching sessions? get in touch

Further reading

1. Alderfer, C. P. (1969). An empirical test of a new theory of human needs. Organizational Behavior & Human Performance, 4(2), 142–175.

2. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78.


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