What’s the problem with human psychology at work?

Piers Bishop · May 30, 2013

Across the world, managers are sitting with their heads in their hands asking: Why?  What is it about human psychology at work that makes my life so difficult?  Why isn’t she doing what I need her to do, and why on earth is he doing that?

Well, there is always an answer, and it isn’t hard to find if you know how to look for it. One useful way to start is by thinking of human behaviour like this:

Like any species, human beings have deep-seated needs that are wired into us from conception. In the past we would not have survived without these instinctive behaviours, but even though we now have language and education to pass on how we should live, the underlying needs are still there and cannot be turned off.  So all human behaviour, however odd or counterproductive, is an attempt to meet an innate need.  Understand the needs and you will understand the behaviour – and how to help improve it.

Take a simple example – people are sometimes written off as attention-seekers at work because they go out of their way to be noticed, making endless speeches at meetings and so on.  The same thing happened in school – you may remember the classmate who constantly made jokes, set fire to the laboratory or ‘accidentally’ fell off their chair.

Just classifying the person as an ‘attention-seeker’ is unhelpful for three reasons: first, attention is a vital need, we can’t function without it, so everyone is an attention-seeker to some degree, and second, it doesn’t help – the behaviour is a symptom of something deeper and to achieve a proper solution you need to get upstream of the symptom and do something about the real problem! To do something useful here you need a) to find out why this person is not getting the attention they need elsewhere, and/or b) help them to understand why they are doing it so they can hold it back and develop new behaviour which will work better and get their attention needs met more authentically.

Peak human performance comes, by definition, when all your needs are met authentically and in balance.  This leads to a sustainable position in which people will put in their best efforts, learn, grow, collaborate well with their co-workers and want to stay with the company.

So here’s a challenge:  if you knew how well these conditions are met in your company you would immediately know what scope there is for improvement.  You would understand why dysfunction arises and what you can do to help people get round the problems they currently face and become a working team.

Help is at hand – serious help.  WeThrive understands human needs – psychology at work is our core business, and we have developed a unique system for you to find out exactly who is where and what they need to perform well.  At no cost at all we will provide you with a headline view of your staff’s potential for improvement, and then you can buy the details if you see it’s worthwhile.  It begins with a survey that takes no more than twenty minutes of your staff’s time, and if you currently spend any time at all wondering Why? the output data could change your life.