You know the ones. The people in our workplaces that get labeled “difficult”. Or “hard to work with”. Maybe even “gate keepers”. But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “What do they really want?” If you peek below the surface and go a little deeper, you may discover something surprising.
We are Judgmental as Hell
We are judgy, us humans. We are quick to take someone at face value and slap a label on them. Women get labeled the fastest. This has been both my personal experience and what I’ve directly observed. If someone is hesitant to share information quickly, they are labeled as a gate keeper and not a team player. If someone seems to be guarding certain materials, they are labeled a control freak and not a team player. If they don’t say anything in meetings, they are assumed to be in agreement. If they raise concerns later, they are judged for not speaking up sooner.
And the list goes on.
But what do they really want?
We don’t bother to stop and figure it out. We don’t ask enough questions. We don’t slow down long enough to reflect on the situation. We never connect the dots and find out the answer to this question.
My partner recently had an experience where she put this to the test. There is a woman who works in her plant who guards over a specific piece of equipment as though it is her personal property. She routinely refuses to allow other people to use it, calibrate it, or even touch it. She’s causes most people to go to great lengths to go around her because she’s been so unpleasant to talk to about this equipment.
Dani decided to try and figure her out. What was causing her to act this way? What’s at the root of it? And what does this woman really want?
After reflection, Dani hypothesized that all she wants is to be valued and respected. She wants to feel like she’s important. Dani chose her approach accordingly, and this woman responded beautifully. Not only did she insist that Dani use the equipment, she offered to order another piece of it to keep in the other location where Dani works more often.
The Most Basic Emotional Needs at Work
It’s not complicated. We want to feel important, valued, heard, seen, appreciated, and treated with basic respect and dignity. The next time someone around you is behaving in a way that tempts you to label them and dismiss them, think twice. What’s really going on? What do they really want? How can you adjust your approach accordingly? If you want some help figuring it out, give us a holler.