I learned that nothing sends a person into a tailspin quicker than feeling he is not valued or respected. I believe people have an interior dialogue going on in their head, causing them to react the same way each time they are hurt. When we stand in front of an elevator and push the button, we know the elevator will arrive and the door opens so we can get in.

People have buttons just like an elevator. You can push a person's buttons by hurting them and you can be sure that something will come out of that person. It may be withdrawal, depression, anger or they try harder to please you but in most cases they will hurt you back.

Now you're dancing

The dance begins the moment a person is hurt. Do or say something to your employee that causes him to feel stupid and the dance is on. Treat your co-worker as if he can't do anything right and the dance is on. Give your co-worker that look that makes him feel belittled and the dance is on. Say something degrading to an employee or supervisor loud enough for everyone else in the office to hear and the dance is on.

Do you like to dance? Do you like to lead or follow? The leader in this dance routine is the person who hurts someone and the follower is the person who reacts to the hurt. Once the follower reacts, he then becomes the leader by hurting the other person back. The dance won't stop until both people feel they have earned their spot back. Earning your spot back is simply getting yourself back to the place where you feel safe.

The tango

Your employee is doing a good job but he doesn't seem to give you the respect you want. The employee say's something to you that confirms your suspicion and your pride is hurt. You want to be respected by this employee so you react by putting the guy in his place.

Now the employee's feelings are hurt because he feels the employer doesn't value him. The once-good employee will react through anger, frustration, gossip, stealing, attitude or losing interest in doing a good job. As far as the employee is concerned, he can no longer trust his employer to give him value. He will either get it from the employer one way or another, or he will find an employer who will give him the value he needs.

In a private survey, people in our industry were asked the following key questions to determine how valuable they feel:

  • How valuable do you feel you are to your parents? An astounding 60 percent of the people felt extremely valuable to their parents; 23 percent felt above average, and; 17 percent felt the question didn't apply to them.
  • Overall, how valuable do you feel? Twenty five percent felt extremely valuable; 25 percent felt very valuable; 42 percent felt above average; 4 percent felt below average, and; 2 percent responded as nearly no value.
  • How valuable do you feel you are to the people you work for? Thirty eight percent felt extremely valuable; 55 percent felt above average; 2 percent felt average; 2 percent felt below average, and; 2 percent felt they were of nearly no value.
  • How valuable do you feel you are to your boss? Twenty five percent felt extremely valuable; 37 percent felt very valuable; 30 percent felt average; 5 percent felt below average, and; 2 percent felt they were of no value.

The response regarding the parents was key in this survey. The majority of the people responded as "extremely" valuable. The remaining people felt they were of above average. I believe the people taking the survey believe they are highly valued by their parents. They overwhelmingly believed, because their parents somehow communicated it. The difference between knowing and feeling you are valued is huge.

One word from an employer or supervisor can take an extremely valuable employee to a below average employee. One word from one co-worker to another can take one or both of the employees from feeling very valuable to not valuable at all.

Everyone wants to be valued. The truth is in knowing rather than feeling. If you know you are valuable, nothing will change knowing but feelings can change in a wink of an eye or a raise of an eyebrow or an unkind word.

I have a friend who loves me. In a split second, I can push his button and you can see his emotions coming up like an elevator. He can do the same thing to me and we do it knowing it's wrong. To stop the dance, all we have to do is not hurt back. Most of us react to hurt by hurting back.

Extreme value

In construction, subcontractors are the majority of the work force. Overall, subcontractors have more people working for them than general contractors. We sometimes think it's a money game or a bidding game but in reality, it's a people and relationship issue. If we dance the dance with the people we work with, we will never bring out the best in them. A very good employee can become your problem employee if he doesn't believe he is extremely valuable.

In our business, we need people who know they are extremely valuable. Valuing people is not only vital to a company's success, it's vital to any relationship. The key is to teach people to know rather than just feel they are valuable. Feelings go up and down but knowing is a constant.

Does the dance work for you in your personal and professional life? Has it gotten you where you want to go? Have you lost opportunities and relationships because you must win the dance contest? Do you ever look back at the train wreck and try to rationalize why it wasn't your fault? Yes, no, maybe?

It doesn't matter if you have one employee or 1,000 employees. If you can teach a person to know he is valuable rather than just feel he is valuable, you've accomplished something you will never regret.

Remember: Teamwork begins with a fair contract.

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