Do you think that you matter at work? What do you think the majority will answer…?
In November, the You Matter Marathon is being held, when participants hand out one You Matter card to one person a day to remind people that they matter. It’s a beautiful initiative, of course, but let’s think about what this implies. It means that many people need to be reminded that they matter.
I guess this is a consequence of our wealthy and individualistic culture. Everyone is busy, in a hurry, making money (or trying hard to) and pursuing their own goals, purpose, happiness, and success. Most of us enjoy more personal freedom and autonomy than our parents and ancestors experienced. We are free to choose our spouses, careers, house, car, and president – of course within practical boundaries, but still. We are entitled to our lifestyle and opinions. We don’t have to keep up with the Joneses anymore if we don’t choose to. We can close the door behind us, settle on the couch and watch our personal Netflix channels. We are fed and free – and tired, lonely, bored, and stuck.
Without nosy neighbors, prying family members and gossiping communities – we may be left wondering if we matter at all. To whom do we matter?
Do you matter?
Even if you matter at home (which I hope is obvious), how’s that at work? Thinking of the infamous Gallup survey scores that claim that only 32% of US employees are engaged at work (Gallup data, January 2016) – I suppose the majority feel that they don’t matter at work.
What’s it like, to not matter? It may arouse anger, grief, fear, hopelessness, helplessness or indifference. But what it does not arouse is enthusiasm, energy, creativity, goodwill, engagement, resourcefulness, going the extra mile, being customer-oriented, feeling patient, compassionate, kind, or serving, contributing, and collaborating.
Do our organizations do well with anger, grief, fear, hopelessness, helplessness or indifference? And our staff?
Let’s not spell out the answer, but return to my first question. Do you think that you matter at work? Seriously? Are all readers leaders – who naturally assume that they matter to their teams? Are you part of those engaged 32% professionals while the 68% others can’t be bothered to read this blog because they don’t matter and it doesn’t matter?
Do your coworkers matter?
In the same line of questioning: Do you think that your coworkers and direct reports think that they matter at work? Are the 32% happily-engaged-people working on your team? Or might there be people who think they don’t really matter at work?
The wonderful thing is that every person matters to the whole – even if they don’t think so. But that’s a systemic and philosophical argument that I won’t get into now. The point is that people see and believe that they matter. That’s the key to getting unstuck and accessing those states of enthusiasm, energy, creativity, productivity, and collaboration.
How you matter – no permission required
Receiving a You Matter card must be heartwarming – but there’s much more that people need at work. The magic is that you can give it to them, regardless of your formal position or role. The minute you understand that You Matter you can start making a positive difference to others.
How do you show people they matter?
- By giving them attention – so people feel that they are seen. Even simple eye-contact can open up a new world
- By asking genuine questions and listening to the answers – so they feel heard and respected
- By asking what they’d like to do, or change – so they feel empowered to action
- By supporting their chosen actions – so they feel they belong to the (your) team
- By asking if they’re open to feedback – so they feel that you care and you support them
- By asking if they need anything – so you can get them coffee or practical help
Is this difficult? Not really but it can be when you’re busy on autopilot. Is it time-consuming? Not really when you think of the engagement and achievements you may set in motion… Is it something you need permission to do? Of course not. You hand out the present of your attention any way that fits you.
It may take nanoseconds to make eye contact with the receptionist. It takes 2 minutes to get the secretary a coffee. Your smile can light up a room – and your meeting will go differently – especially if you master the art of asking questions to learn (instead of questions to find the culprit or demonstrate your importance).
The best part? It will make you feel that you matter. And that won’t be just a feeling – but a fact.
What do you think? Do you matter? Do your coworkers matter? With what actions do you convey the You Matter message?