Two important human needs that don’t change over time are the need to be noticed and to be known.
While there are those who might hide these needs for any number of reasons, leaders need to remember the importance of both.
Kids in a classroom that can’t be noticed for good grades or behavior often resort to bad behavior. Why? Being noticed for being bad is preferable to being ignored.
The famous Hawthorne Effect experiment proved that workers on an assembly line improved their performance when they perceived management was paying attention to them. The changes in working conditions were superfluous, but the resulting perception was “They’re finally paying attention to us!”
Noticing employees and colleagues begins with simple courtesy and acknowledgement. It is more powerful to pay attention to the contributions and good work they do. Too often we notice only the negative or problematic behavior which inadvertently can reinforce that behavior. (Remember the classroom example above?)
Getting to know someone takes much more time and effort. Obviously no manager or leader wants to be obtrusive. The appropriate approach is making the time to understand an employee’s hopes, fears and goals at work. The objective should never be gratuitous; it should be motivated by the value you place on the person and a genuine need to help them be all they can be at work.
Bob Seger wrote a song about being an autoworker in Detroit many years ago. The refrain? “I feel like a number.” Underlying that sentiment is feeling neither noticed nor known.
Being noticed and know are simple but critically important needs. Regrettably they are often overlooked.