If your people are acting like two-year-olds, ask yourself which of their "two-year-old needs" you may have neglected.
Two year-old children. Ugh! That’s the age the pediatricians refer to as the no-brain stage. The terrible twos, right? At this age, kids eat plants, rip up the newspaper, throw tantrums in the most public of places, pull off the tablecloth, get into everything, and test Mom’s or Dad’s patience to the limit. Many parents wish they could just park them somewhere. Then pick them up again when they have outgrown this age.
Think for a moment about the basic needs of two-year-old children. They need to be cared for. They need security and protection. They need to be listened to and included. They need their questions answered. They need love, reassurance, entertainment, attention, praise, and discipline. They need age-appropriate responsibilities.
We have just described the needs of two-year- olds. Think about it. Aren’t these also the needs of a 22-year-old, a 42-year-old, or a 62-year-old—just a bit more sophisticated and complex? Read the previous paragraph one more time. The needs are similar. When you consider our basic needs, don’t we all still have a two-year-old inside our grown bodies?
Do the people you lead sometimes seem like two-year-olds? They may whine, complain, and demonstrate selfish behavior. Do they ignore your requests, chronically procrastinate, waste time, or violate policies? If so, you may reach the point where you want to just put them somewhere until they’ve grown up.
If that’s the case, it may be because you’re not filling their basic needs. Do you really care about them? Do you give them a feeling of security? Do you help them feel needed? Do you protect them from the powers that be? Do you genuinely listen to their concerns? Do you include them in decisions? Do you give them reassurance, attention, praise, and appropriate discipline? All of these questions reflect basic human needs—for two-year-olds or 42-year-olds.
If you’re having trouble with your people consider which of their “two-year-old” needs are not being met. This does not mean that you should treat them like two-year-olds. But if you satisfy their basic needs, they are much more likely to meet yours.
Here are a few points for reflection:
- Consider the list of basic needs described in this story. Consider how people of all ages exhibit these needs.
When these needs are being met, people will be more productive. The opposite is also true.
- Think of low-performance employees you struggle with. Then take a moment and analyze which of their needs are not being met. Are you able to fill the void?