A really common frustration I hear in coaching is when my clients are annoyed with someone they work with. Now, this could happen for a variety of reasons, but one of the most frequent annoyances is when a coworker doesn't talk to them the way they'd like or won't fulfill their request with a nod and smile.
"I don't know why they're so crabby all the time," my client might say. Or, "He acts like I'm such an inconvenience even though it's his job to help me."
In these moments, we always take some time to review The Story Framework (e.g., what's the story I'm telling myself about that person and is it true?) and remind ourselves that we can't control how other people choose to show up. After that, though, I try to use this experience as an opportunity to revisit the concept of Significance.
Significance as a Basic Human Need
If you remember back to the 6 Basic Human Needs, you will remember that Significance – or the need to feel important or valued – is a really important one. When we don't feel significant, we don't show up as the best version of ourselves.
Now, on one hand, I really do believe that Significance is an inside job. I can't depend on others to make me feel important and valuable – those things are intrinsic for each one of us, regardless of what others think.
But, on the other hand, if you've ever been given a compliment – you know that the words of others sure don't hurt our sense of Significance.
In many workplaces, however, that feeling of Significance is lacking. We take people for granted. We demand action from others with no regard for their priorities or pre-existing schedule. We forget that it's not our way or the highway. And we aren't good at showing appreciation for the efforts of others.
If we're consistently not getting what we want from our coworkers – either in tone or in action – it behooves us to ask ourselves: What would happen if I made them feel more important?
Making Others Feel Significant
I've mentioned some of these already, but here's some of my favorite tips for making others feel important, special and valuable at work:
- Say "thank you." Yep, it's that simple. When someone does something for you – even though it's their job to do it – tell them thanks (and mean it).
- Expand on your gratitude. I know I just told you to say "thank you" more often, but you can also take it a step further. Instead of just a passing "thanks," tell them what you appreciate. For example, "Susan, I really appreciate that you reorganized your afternoon yesterday to help me get that project done. I know it wasn't your fire to put out, but the customer ended up really happy and I couldn't have done it without you." See how much more impactful that is?!
- Show your appreciation. Every once in a while, consider a token of appreciation. Depending on the person, it might be flowers, a souvenir you picked up while traveling or just a handwritten note. If you're in leadership, this could also be some sort of award or bonus.
- Ask – don't demand. How mad do you get when someone calls you and demands you get something done, without ever asking what was already on your plate for the day? I know that's one of my triggers, for sure. Unfortunately, we do this to other people all the time without even realizing it (and then we get annoyed when they don't happily accept our demand). Next time you've got a fire to put out and you need someone's help, ask for it. For example, "Joe, I know you've probably got an entire afternoon of feed orders already planned but this customer called me and is panicking about getting hers today. Is there any way to adjust the schedule to slide her order in early?" If Joe says he can adjust, thank him. If Joe says he can't adjust, work together to find the next best solution. Joe isn't here to work for you (in most cases) – he's here to work with you.
- Be wary of committing without talking to your team first. When I first started my career, I was terrible at this. My client would ask for a project done on an unreasonably quick timeline and, because I didn't want to disappoint them, I'd just agree – and then I'd go to my team to figure out how to get it done. WRONG APPROACH. If a customer, client or supervisor is ever asking you for something that involves other people, try not to commit until you've confirmed that all involved parties can execute at a high standard. Trust me, there's no better way to hurt your team relationships than to keep making them rearrange their schedules or work under unreasonable pressure because you didn't set clear expectations with your client/customer/boss up front. Will your client be annoyed that you won't give them an immediate 'yes' to their request? Maybe. But it's your job to protect your team and to make sure they know you value them/their time, just as much as it is to deliver what the client needs – that's the only way you can sustainably do great work and avoid resentment.
You can't control others – but you can impact them.
You don't have control over how the people around you show up – that's their choice. But you can make it easier for them to choose to help you.
By showing your teammates that you value what they do, that you don't think your priorities are more important than theirs, and that you're committed to working side-by-side (vs. commanding and controlling) to get the job done – that's what makes people feel significant. And when people feel significant, they're more likely to a) help you when you've gotten yourself in a jam and b) they give you more grace when screw up (something we all need from time-to-time).
We recently had a post on Instagram that said, "Someone who feels appreciated will often do more than what is expected."
Before you complain about the coworker who isn't helping you or isn't helping you as happily as you'd like, ask yourself:
Have I made them feel appreciated? Do they feel valued or important?
When they do, chances are help and kindness will start to follow.
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