Employees Want to Matter

Help employees conquer their fear of rejection to fulfill their need to make a difference.

By Ann Tardy April 1, 2012

April CoverEvery person wants to make a contribution but fears rejection of their ideas. These two human emotions clash in the workplace and influence productivity. The push of wanting to make a difference leads us to want to make contributions, but the pull of rejection of those contributions by our supervisors and peers can hinder progress. Leaders can help employees minimize that fear and boost contributions.

These two tenets of influence can drive action or inaction in the workplace. Tip the balance toward action with 10 activities that will feed your employees' need to matter while stifling their fear of rejection. You will evolve from a manager who micromanages and grinds toward goals into a leader who sparks transformation and makes a difference.

Survey your people. Employees are like customers who purchase your leadership daily. Survey them regularly to determine the gap between expectations and reality. Regularly asking how you're doing as a leader will communicate your commitment to serving their success. One caution: Your own fear of rejection will need a gut check.

Create the battle cry. To what victory are you leading your team? Rally people with more than a mission or a vision statement. Rally them with a battle cry. People want to show up every day to make a real difference. Let them.

Connect the dots. Our brains process meaning before details, so assign meaning before providing details. Everyone wants to know "How does what you are asking me to do fit into the big picture?" Explain to people how their work on a project matters.

Focus on spine-tingling activities. Doing something new and out of your comfort zone creates a butterflies-in-the-stomach feeling. People crave this feeling but fear being rejected for it. Discover what invigorates and exhilarates people, and create such opportunities for them.

Accentuate the positive. Ask employees what they love about their jobs. Simply asking reminds people of their own battle cries, while their answers reveal what makes them feel worthy. Help shift the balance of their workload in favor of doing what they love.

Smile. People watch you to determine how they should act, react and behave.

Lift the communication fog. Take 100 percent responsibility for every miscommunication. If a listener did not understand your direction, it is because of your failure to communicate, not his inability to listen. If you accept responsibility swiftly, you will remove the fear of rejection underneath misunderstanding.

Mentor. People hate to change but are hungry to evolve. Change is about fixing weaknesses, while evolution is about transforming and growing. Mentoring is the most powerful, cost-effective, time-efficient tool for fostering growth, development and evolution.

Prime people to take your job. The mark of your leadership is the ability to walk away from a team and watch it sustain success without you. If you prepare people for your job, you will free yourself up for opportunities.

Be kind without exception. Every person struggles daily to make his or her life matter and to avoid rejection—even the most pompous jerk. Have compassion. Operating from this perspective is guaranteed to make you a magnificent leader.

The author is founder of Life Moxie, a management consulting firm with offices in San Francisco and Red Bank, N.J. She can be reached at ann@lifemoxie.com.



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SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.

SHRM's Employee Engagement Survey service focuses on more than 50 aspects of job satisfaction and engagement commonly linked to performance.



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