In-house Issues: Pyramids & Potential

In 1943 Abraham Maslow proposed that human motivations, and hence an individual’s capacity for achievement, are governed by a hierarchy of certain physiological and psychological needs being met. Simply put, no one is going to be striving for ultimate enlightenment if they’re starving or existing in an environment of emotional deprivation or abuse.

Upper management at many major organizations ignore or are ignorant of this fact and consequently pay the high price of compounding poor morale and a dysfunctional corporate culture. A perfect example of this is the all too typical email from the CEO expounding the company’s mission and commitment to, and expectations of, its employees. This is pretty much a rah-rah feel-good missive that is sent with the intention of rallying the troops but is completely disconnected from the in-the-trenches realities of the company’s employees being overworked, underpaid and in fear of losing their jobs. The last thing staff is focused on is strategic, organization-wide change. They’re all digging in and fighting for their professional lives, trying to hold onto a paycheck to support their families while shielding themselves from corporate politics and trying to maintain some sort of work-life balance.

This reality applies to in-house teams, as they are, of course, a microcosm of the greater organization. So, if you’re a manager, keep your focus on making large or even incremental changes in the basic quality of your team’s experience at work. Fight with HR for deserved raises, comp days, training – anything that will show your staff they’re valued and are being provided opportunities for professional development. Work with Facilities to improve your physical surroundings and IT to upgrade network infrastructure.

If you’re not in a management position, make your needs known to your managers in a respectful but assertive manner. Don’t use the lack of support you’re experiencing as a weapon to make your company wrong and as an excuse to passively-aggressively underperform. Take some responsibility for your situation and if that doesn’t work – leave.

Only after your in-house team’s basic needs are met will that iTunes giftcard thank you gesture make any difference and, more importantly, will your group be able to strategically address and improve its ability to serve your company to its fullest potential.

For more on this critical topic you may want to consider tuning in to HOW’s DesignCast, “The Tribe Vibe: How to Build a Great Team Culture”.