A Need for Needs

In order for workplaces to function in the way that they do today, they require workers with needs. Ciulla’s The Working Life speaks about this necessity in a section aptly named “Needs Nobody Wants”. The issue is that employers, especially unethical ones, tend to have a skewed view about the needs of their employees. And they even go a step further – creating a need where there was not one previously. The misconceptions stem from a lack of self-awareness on the part of the employers. The kind of thinking is – all of my employee’s needs are the same, or all of my employee’s needs are the same as mine. Even more demoralizing – all of my employee’s needs I can determine from personality test results. Offering fulfillment of another person’s needs is a futile and damaging methodology in management today. And consider the outliers in this management attempt.

As Ciulla puts it, “Employees whose priorities don’t follow the order of the [Maslow] pyramid are a manager’s worst nightmare.”

She’s talking about people like me – preferring lower pay for humane treatment rather than higher pay for demoralizing treatment, choosing writing on the fringe rather than following the blog advice of the masses, refusing to stand among the unethical and illogically-minded.

photo by Jan Phoenix

Work is no longer just an exchange of time for money. It’s gone beyond, encroaching uneasy situations and demanding you “just deal with it.” Employment has become emotional work, draining where it is least appropriate. In my own employment, relationships with co-workers in the workplace were consistently compared to “marriages” and severing ties with a company was aligned with a “breakup”. Forging highly personal and romantic comparisons onto what should have been professional relationships creates for an absurd reality. It pierces into the utmost private aspects of life, conjuring side-by-side images that have no place beside one another. As is all too obvious, you choose your marital partner but you do not choose your co-workers. Blurring those lines often works in favor of the employer, who encroaches more and more into emotional territory, leaving his or her employees confused and even emotionally vulnerable to further personal comparisons.

Cuilla states, “One way to assert power over others is to determine what people need or create needs for them, and then define what they have to do to have these needs met.”

What do workers become when they continue to define their own needs? First, they don’t fair well in a typical regressive office environment. So they must seek an alternative form of employment that can fill their specific needs. Some people don’t even require needs from a workplace beyond a steady paycheck and ethical treatment. They seek their primary needs outside of work, through volunteering, family, athletics, and more. Still, the needs of others don’t even account for Maslow’s basic requirements such as food, water, and shelter. Even Maslow made room for outliers who have different needs, recognizing that some forgo even the basics for other sources they deem more important to their survival. For example, think of the writer who would give up meals, or the saying “starving artist.”

Workers need not have their psychological, intellectual, and social needs defined by their employers.

The outsiders, whose needs are not equivalent to the majority, are placed into odd spaces. They cannot fill a position at a company that assumes their needs incorrectly. It’s far more psychologically damaging to them. Some may get by well with having their needs defined, especially if they cannot come up with their own. Those people may “go with the flow” but only because they already have the needs their employers want them to have. As for me – my needs are not the same as those of the majority, so traditional and unethical office work is not what you’ll find me doing.