If work has become a chore, discover which 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 inform a discussion with your current workplace about what is missing and, if they can't fix the situation, inform the questions you can go on to ask at interview to ensure you don't end up in the same place.
During a work-life coaching session, if someone is unhappy at work I'll suggest we do a Super Seven Needs Audit. It can be used whenever we are feeling unsettled but, it is especially useful if someone is no longer satisfied in their work and unsure why.
The premise is that people feel good and function well when their basic physical, emotional, cognitive and psychological needs are being met. If one or more is lacking we suffer in some way.
By systematically reviewing our needs, we get an indication of which unmet need may be in play and leading to feeling dis-satisfied.
For a coachee, the outcome can bring 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.
Jump: Take me to the Audit
What is a need?
According to Abraham Maslow we are all motivated to fulfil essential, innate needs that ensure our survival and support well-being.
In other words, certain things are required by all human beings and we are driven to take action from a sense of lack or insufficiency. For example, a lack of water will create a need for water (thirst) which in turn drives us to seek it. Once this need is satisfied we can occupy ourselves with other things.
Maslow established a hierarchy of need categories, proposing 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 continual debate in research circles as to the ordering of these needs and their sequential nature, they provide a relevant and useful framework with which to understand ourselves.
What are our Super Seven Needs?
For the purpose of a well-being audit, I focus on seven categories of need.
Along with nutritious 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 our basic needs.
2. Safety and security
We have a need to feel physically and psychologically safe, to live without threat and have recourse 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 the flight/fight or stress response is activated leading to poor rest and recovery functions. It also takes the creative, logical part of the brain offline making us single-focused and likely to dwell on our challenges and difficulties.
3. Control and autonomy
We need to feel a sense of control and that we have a choice. Without this we can very soon feel distressed, overwhelmed or resentful.
4. Connection and belonging
For our ancestors safety was found in community. Without each other, the human race would simply not have survived. Wired for connection and collaboration, we are naturally social beings. A sense of belonging comes from feeling part of a group. Knowing that someone sees us and understands us is also important. Without these, loneliness is common.
5. Recognition and achievement
This need concerns our feeling of self-worth. We have a need to be respected, that we are not only part of the community but a valued one. 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
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 and satisfaction.
7. Meaning and purpose
Life Coach Tony Robbins believes the secret to living is giving and this chimes with this need. Like Personal Growth this is not driven by lack but from a wish to serve and contribute to something greater than ourselves.
Maslow originally proposed that these needs are hierarchical and that we look to meet each in turn starting with physiological needs. However, I prefer to see them as all being relevant, an inter-connected system of needs with no suggestion of hierarchy, recognising that at different times in our lives some may be impacted or become dominant.
Doing a Super Seven Needs Audit
For the purpose of a well-being audit, all super seven needs need to be examined.
Systematically consider and rate each need in turn.
Our Super Seven Needs
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.
Below are some aspects to think about.
Physical and biological
What's the environment like where you work?
Is it uncomfortable physically, for example noisy? cramped? insufficiently lit? too hot? Are you in a draft?
Can you meet your need for food, drink, rest, movement, the bathroom?
Safety and security
Do you feel safe from physical and psychological harm?
Are you feeling bullied?
Do you understand what you are to do?
Are you worried about your future at work?
Are redundancies on the cards?
Control and autonomy
Is your workload manageable?
Do you have a say in what work you are to do or how/when it is to be delivered?
Is someone micro-managing you?
Connection and belonging
Are you feeling alone or isolated?
Do colleagues help or hinder your ability to get work done?
Is your manager supportive?
Is there are sense of camaraderie?
Is there anyone you can ask for help?
Do you regularly talk to people who are interested in your work?
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 feeling that you are taken for granted?
If you are freelance, are your clients providing positive feedback?
Personal growth and development
Are you learning new things or are you feeling stuck?
What opportunities are there for you to grow and fulfil your potential?
Is there an area of work you would like to move into but are being overlooked?
Have you been pigeon-holed?
Meaning and purpose
Do the values of the company align with your own?
Does your role feel purposeful?
Once you have scored each one, you will have a snapshot of your current level of satisfaction across the various domains and identify which areas may be causing you difficulty.
Tip! Our needs don't have to be 100% satisfied to feel a high sense of well-being.
I know the score, now what?
Doing the audit is really only half of the work. The next task is to look at the lower scoring areas and decide which you would like to focus on.
When considering a lower scoring need, ask yourself:
"what would be happening, if this need was higher scoring?”
“what action could I take to move up one point?"
"did this need score higher in the past? what has changed?"
"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 met. 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 with another 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. Nothing changes, if nothing changes
When our Super Seven Needs are sufficiently met we will feel content but, when there is an imbalance there is a feeling of dis-satisfaction which over time can lead to poor emotional health and/or unhelpful coping behaviours.
Doing a Super Seven Needs Audit to discover how well they are being met is a useful way to see what might need attention, as well as where things are going well.
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 emotionally.
Let me know in the comments what you discover if you do a Super Seven Needs Audit and what actions it inspires you to take. I’d love to hear from you.
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