“What else does he want? He does his job well and gets paid for it!”
Are you familiar with this sentence?!
Or this one?
“I already gave him a raise. This already shows that I appreciate him. Why does he need more than that?”
This past week in a conversation with a manager, one of my clients, he told me he didn’t like that one of his employees wrote him an email ending with: “I hope you appreciate this.”
As we tried together to understand where this may have come from, it became more apparent. This employee has recently been making a lot of effort to work normally despite significant personal and family health issues. Because of this he wanted to be sure that his manager sees, acknowledges, and appreciates his efforts.
As we tried to
understand why the manager didn’t like his closing remark, we came to the conclusion that the manager, himself, also doesn’t feel appreciated by his own manager. And this causes him to forward his own unpleasant feelings onto his own team.
As a young student in organizational sociology, working in Intel (many years ago), I was given a huge opportunity to take the place of my manager, the HRBP of the department, as she relocated for a few months. She basically took a risk since usually the HRBPs covered for each other in those circumstances.
I was scared, but I totally committed myself to this opportunity, worked night and day, for months, to gain the managers trust and do both her job and mine successfully.
Throughout this period my manager hardly spoke with me aside from a few critiques, and there were many complex situations I dealt with, alone, despite my needing support and guidance.
When my manager came back to the office, I thanked her for the opportunity and for her trust in me but I also shared with her that I felt alone during her time away and needed more support.
Her immediate response was: “You were given a huge opportunity here. What did you expect? That I would also pet your head?!"
I was offended and I assume my manager noticed it since on our next meeting she expressed her appreciation in warm words and a nice gift. I was also got an excellence award later that year for special effort and contribution.
I really admired her for learning from this process, for listening and acting, because all in all it was her first time being a manager.
Baby Monkeys chose love over food
Those involved in management surely know that there are plenty of similarities between parenting and managing. Our human needs for security, love, belonging, and appreciation must be fulfilled.
My discussion this week with the aforementioned manager, along with all the memories that came up from my own experience, remind me of a ground-breaking psychological study conducted on Rhesos monkeys called “Mother towel and mother wire” (well known in developmental psychology and animal rights).
In this study, they gave infant monkeys two inanimate surrogate mothers: one was a simple construction of wire and wood, and the second was covered in foam rubber and soft terry cloth. The infants were assigned to one of two conditions. In the first, the wire mother had a milk bottle and the cloth mother did not; in the second, the cloth mother had the food while the wire mother had none.
In both conditions, the study found that the infant monkeys spent significantly more time with the terry cloth mother than they did with the wire mother. When only the wire mother had food, the babies came to the wire mother to feed and immediately returned to cling to the cloth surrogate.
We are not monkeys, and our managers aren’t our parents but Herzerg's theory of motivation continue to be proven correct: salary and work conditions prevent dissatisfaction but positive engagement such as personal investment and persistence are products of emotional satisfaction. And this isn’t something that money can buy.
This content was also published at GLOBES, Israel's leading business newspaper.