In a previous life, before I spent all day negotiating with
terrorists toddlers, I used to work as an estimator for a construction company. When I first started, the workplace climate was fairly laid back and positive. Each employee worked hard, and they knew if they did their job right, bonuses would be paid out at the end of the year. About a year after I was hired, the construction market plummeted. All of a sudden, bonuses were gone and people just wanted to keep their jobs. That’s when fear started to take hold. Coworkers were now watching each other for the tiniest of mistakes. They kept tabs on perceived character flaws, and perceived misuses of time. They kept score of anything they felt would give them a leg up if their job was on the line.
Amidst all of this uncertainty, there was a manager who would regularly say to the employees, “Anybody is replaceable.” Company morale could not have been lower, and he was going around advertising that there was not one person he considered valuable to the company. How motivated were people were to give their best? Not very. They were all being told that their best wasn’t good enough.
Everyone has an invisible sign hanging around their neck saying, ‘make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with people. -Mary Kay Ash
As it turns out, the construction industry rebounded. They picked up multiple, million dollar projects. The mood should have shifted. It should have returned to it’s optimistic base. It didn’t. There were too many people who remembered how much they had been undervalued. They remembered that they weren’t important.
Whether you are working in Corporate America or picking carrots out of your child’s hair, just remember this: Everybody wants to feel important. If you make other people a priority in your life, they will make you a priority in theirs.