Be a better manager – recognising craving approval in the workplace

I wrote a couple of months ago about the ‘7 things and employee most wants to hear from their boss’- and these were basically things that made them feel valued, more about appreciated and recognised. And as we spend some 2000 hours a year at work it seems reasonable that we feel valued but for some people the hour of their appraisal is the most important hour of the year. The effort and contribution will all have been in vain if the appraisal is not good. In today’s world work is more than just about putting bread on the table –it meets many of our needs for self –esteem, erectile it provides us with relationships and we look to it for validation of our worth. But in some people their need for approval at work runs so deep that it can result in  patterns of behaviour that are unhelpful.  For these are ‘people pleasers’  who struggle to risk any sort disapproval from others – in particular from those higher in the hierarchy.  What are the consequences of this neediness and how as a manager can you avoid the negative ones?

Over sensitivity

Fear terror eye

Fear terror eye (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

For a start those who desperately seek approval can have a heightened sensitivity to both compliments and criticism. They repeat the compliments and share with colleagues- to the irritation of those around them. Their sensitivity to criticism means it can be hard to give them feedback of any sort and even more challenging – they infer the lack of praise/thanks as criticism! Their heightened perceptions mean that their hopes and aspirations for approval are constantly disappointed.

The absence of the desired approval can drive them either to resentment or a re-doubling of efforts. Whilst the latter may be good for the business in the short term it may have negative consequences in the longer term.

Low performance

In some the need for praise and the fear of criticism literally paralyses them, link they procrastinate, avoid doing important things, feel anxiety and fear, and get literally paralysed.

Wanting people to like them results in declining new opportunities, being too nervous to perform effectively, and showing signs of avoidance, such as apathy, withdrawal, analysis paralysis, and giving up.

Over perfectionism

Whilst some people get stuck because of fear of criticism, others re-double their efforts to produce the perfect piece of work that cannot be disagreed with. They can’t meet deadlines, get lost in the detail and spend too much time on things that are not mission critical because they can’t bear to get anything wrong or less than perfect.

If work is their main source of approval then they will work long hours and can be prone to burn out and stress because of the intense worry that accompanies delivering any piece of work. Work may take over their lives and the need for approval become a vicious circle.

Hiding and lying

I once worked for a man who admitted he spent two years lying to our bosses about the figures. He just made stuff up- 52 became around 75%. He was desperate to gain approval from the senior management team. Quite how he got away with it for so long is beyond me.

The Enron culture was similar, no one dared to say how things actually were for fear of disapproval. Untruth and myth became accepted as reality and the business lost touch with what was really going on.

People who fear disapproval will tell their listener what they want to hear, making it impossible for the business to know here it really is or to address the reality of the issues that it is facing. Eventually it will crumble like a house of cards.

Frequent requests for pay rises

If money is their currency of worth, they may start asking for pay rises and start putting in complaints and grievances i get paid then you to gain attention and validate themselves. If I am worth what should pay me more.. saying thanks is not enough, you need to validate me by paying me more. And because they often are very hard working they get away with this.. up to appoint. And then the organisations boundaries are breached and a refusal given resulting in another collapse of the house of cards.

Failure to say ‘no’ to anything

It may feel great to have a member if staff who never refuses a request or who volunteers for every task, but can they really take on that much work and deliver at the right quality?  ‘People pleasers’ want to please everyone and can pulled apart by the number of frequent demands that everyone places on them and that they won’t say no to. They can end up failing to prioritise and failing to deliver.

So as a manager how do you work with people who have a very deep need for approval from others?

Meet their need. Recognise the signs of someone who can’t say no to you, who is struggling with too much work but won’t admit it and work to meet their need for approval but also introduce the concept that you won’t approve of over commitment, over perfectionism or lack of honesty. But keep giving recognition.

Give choices not instructions. Using your own assertive techniques –get them to examine their own workload and assess their capacity.  Ensure that they don’t feel they are letting you down if they say no.

Develop their ability to praise themselves and build their self esteem. The reason that people have this deep seated need for approval from others is that their own self esteem is not very high. They don’t value themselves much but look to others to validate them. Shifting their locus so that they start to value themselves more is critical to releasing them from their need for approval from you.

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