Survivor - Workplace

There are a ton of survivor-style television shows out. You know, where one or several people get dropped in a location they do not know without anything (or next to nothing). They have to “make it” for some amount of time or form a tribe and work through the tribe interactions. When you get a new job, the experience can be very similar. You take the job, get a set of stuff and are expected to survive and thrive. Both follow Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs. Maslow stayed really busy creating a lot of theories about humans, and most are patterns that I use to understand what I need to give and get from a job.

Maslow suggests there is a set of common human needs. They start at the first layer with survival needs of air, shelter, water and food. For business and a job, these might be getting a tour of the building you work in, figuring out what the core work hours are and expected dress code. The next items are: support (administrative, help desk, HR, etc.), introductions to your core team members, links and access to resources (network, servers, people), understanding of expectations, groups to join, and regular meetings you should attend. Last pieces for the survival level would be information/documentation relevant to you, office supplies and workstation (or other tools) setup.    

Once you have those, Maslow suggests you strive for safety and security. In the workplace, these will typically manifest in two ways. First will be the corporate safety training or meetings that cover emergency procedures in the event of fire, earthquake, basics of CPR, and where the first aid kit is. The other part is around workplace function to ensure there is no discrimination; you and others have an expectation on proper work and interpersonal ethic, proper ethic for customer, partner, and vendor interaction. Last in this area are check-ins or reviews. These may take the form of daily or weekly emails or short meetings, 1:1 meetings with your manager or their manager, quarterly, bi-annual or yearly reviews.    

Maslow would say you then work to fulfill social needs, such as forming a circle of friends and family. For work, this may include weekly team meetings, awards or rewards for various things, after-hours social events, holiday parties, picnics and team building exercises. While these are events are not mandatory, they fill a need and are well worth attending.    

The next level is focused on esteem and examples are self-esteem, confidence, and achievement. In the workplace, this may be an award such as an employee of the week (month, quarter, or year), maybe a raise or promotion, or could be peer recognition. Other areas covered in this space are you attending training and conferences, being allowed to speak at local or remote events or represent you and your company in other ways.

At the top of the pyramid are self-actualization items. These include creativity, problem solving, authenticity, and spontaneity. These are not something most people are trained on, rather, they come naturally or through direct interaction and through suggestions from your managers, leadership, and mentors. There are high potential programs at larger organizations that focus on these skills. If you are identified as a future leader in the company, you will be invited to attend or can ask your manager what it would take to be considered for such a program. If the company is small and you feel you have what it takes, you can as a leader (typically VP+) to mentor you and help you grow your leadership skills. But, be careful as you may get what you ask for. If a leader does agree, there will be an expectation that you put in the tremendous effort it takes to accelerate in this area. A few parting ideas:

Do make a checklist to get the things you need for success at each level

Do not wait for someone to give a list to you – it does not exist in many workplaces

Do engage in formal or informal mentoring

Do attend social events - they are for you and are important to your growth

Do ask – otherwise you may never know

No matter what else, remember to have fun, make a plan, and know what you are giving and what you get. When the win/win is out of balance, know it and fix it. You are in control so enjoy! 

 

Andy Ruth
SEI Mentor
Apprenticeship Program 
ar@sustainableevolution.com