Home > Thoughts > The top ten list of core human needs that affect work performance

The top ten list of core human needs that affect work performance

December 15th, 2010 Kevin

There is a top ten list of human needs that impact our work performance?

Yes. This post shares them with you. Rather than walk in someone’s shoes, try hard to fill their needs instead. The result will be more success at work, with time saved and goals met.

The shoes metaphor is an old standard: are you saying it doesn’t work?

It works, it’s just real hard to do. Folks generally would rather you meet their needs anyway. My hunch: meet their needs and they will feel like you are walking in their shoes.

You connect core human needs with threats we face in the workplace?


How so?

The greatest threats we face at work are the threats placed on our core needs and the needs of others. Instead of “walking in their shoes,” pay close attention to their needs… and fill them.

What’s this post about?

This post shares the top ten list of human needs and how to (1) know those needs are being threatened (how to spot triggers as we talk) so that you can (2) do something about it.

Say some more?

Researchers including Abraham Maslow and Donald Brown identified several core and universal human needs. The list shifts a bit from culture to culture and era to era. Dan Pink recently popularized some of those needs (autonomy, mastery and purpose) that help motivate others. Author David Rock shares the SCARF model to help identify when core needs are threatened. Marshall Rosenberg teaches nonviolent communication and shows how important it is to meet core needs to reduce violence. The book Getting to Yes addresses the core needs that, when met, help negotiate successful and mutually agreeable outcomes.

Why so much focus on human needs?

Simple: our behavior is driven by these core needs. A deficit in any one of them reduces our performance, hurts our relationships, and gets in the way of meeting our goals. Deficits flare up our egos too.

What do you suggest we do to meet our own core needs and the needs of others?

The general formula is: know core needs may be under threat; know which ones are involved; explore what happened; meet the needs at risk; reflect on their importance before moving on.

What’s the top ten list?

In alphabetical order:

Authority (status)

As in: are you challenging my authority? Think pecking order issues

Autonomy (self-esteem)

As in: I can do this on my own. Think control issues

Certainty (clarity)

As in: do I really need to do this? Think uncertainty issues

Community (connection, relatedness)

As in: you’re not from around here are you? Think tribal issues.

Contribution (acceptance)

As in: does what I do matter? Think importance issues.

Mastery (growth, expertise)

As in: fake it till you make it. Think performance issues.

Meaning (purpose)

As in: what’s in it for me? Think “biggie” issues.

Physical well-being (personal safety)

As in: is it safe? Think base-line issues.

Respect (fairness and honesty)

As in: why not do the right thing? Think trust issues

Variety (growth)

As in: what have you done for me lately? Think change issues.

Okay, so there’s the list, now what?

Commit the list to memory. Consider an acronym like the one David Rock uses: SCARF (Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness– he paired the list down to five).

What do you do with the list once you know it?

Here are the steps:

1) notice a shift in verbal or non-verbal energy that shows core needs may be threatened;

2) identify the core needs at risk;

3) explore what happened: first acknowledge the threat, then try and reappraise it, consider how to reduce it, and finally, learn why the triggers went off in the first place;

4) take time and space to meet the needs before continuing on;

5) lastly, let your efforts to keep things safe sink in for a moment before charging on.

That’s it, just five steps?

Yes; of course there’s a lot of gray area to cover on how to become aware of the threat, how to know which needs are at risk, and how to fill in those needs before moving on.

You said you would help us learn how to spot the triggers?

People are hard wired to react to threats. The signs become obvious when you look for them: sweat on the forehead; fidgety hands or legs; fast eye movement; facial features consistent with fear; change in vocal volume or tone; movement toward (fight) or away (flight) from the conversation; heightened emotional presentation. The important thing about triggers is exploring their presence and considering: are they real; what caused them to happen; and what do they mean moving forward.

The list works for ourselves as well as for others?

Yes. You can apply the steps to help yourself when your own needs are threatened and also to help others when their core needs are threatened and at risk.

Wow: these steps call for an awful lot of awareness on my part, any shortcuts?

No. The ability to notice threats to our core needs is a learned skill as is the ability to do something about it.  Time and practice will help you master the steps.

Good luck!

Categories: Thoughts Tags:
Comments are closed.