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See Me and Care. You’ll get My Personal Best.

Updated: Apr 9

3 people at work collaborating at a laptop

“Disadvantaged employees have equal potential as their more privileged counterparts in the organizational system.”

(Side Note: Equal “potential” is not equivalent to equal opportunity.)

While the introductory statement is expressed in a positive manner, it is fueled by negative assumptions (categorical labels) that highlight unequal distributions of power.

We can do better.

Although labels can help create language and shared understanding (i.e., leader, team, etc.), we must be careful. The organization may unknowingly use labels that impose meaning on an employee or representative group’s identity. Implications may include the perpetuation of pre-existing, biased expectations and evaluations of performance. Labels can also make people feel invisible.

An employee’s social identity (different than social capital) can be understood as, “the degree to which how I feel about myself as a member of the organizational system is reflected back to me by the organization, perhaps communicated by a peer, supervisor or team.” Without an identity that matters, employees find themselves unfulfilled and underperforming.

We never stop growing up.

Think back to your childhood. You were a part of family, academic and social systems. In general, how important was it that you felt seen and understood (as you perceived yourself)?

As an adult, it still matters. You matter.

In fact, generating a feeling in the employee that they matter just may be the most critical method to ignite their underlying motivation to engage and persist. Simply stated, “If you aren’t curious enough about me, I may perceive that you don’t care. If you don’t care, I can’t promise I’ll be all that motivated.”

By prioritizing employee experience, organizations place themselves in a position to learn through the eyes and hearts of their talent pool. This type of relational culture promotes the exchange of ideas and knowledge transfer, while also strengthening efforts towards service and innovation.

One way in which organizations can enhance employee experience is by providing access to one another. Creating opportunities for employees to connect with others, who are genuinely interested in establishing mutually-supportive relationships, helps the employee feel as if they matter. "When I matter, I'm committed to my personal best."

Organizations that provide mentoring programs help employees experience a felt sense of belonging to a community that sees and values their contributions. In fact, it becomes more challenging for individuals or groups of employees to feel overlooked or marginalized. The reason...mentor relationships provide opportunities for support, advocacy, professional development and expansion of networks.

So, how do you identify and support an employee’s needs and potential? A good place to start may be to explore what is important to each employee. Just ask.

By providing individualized resources to support those needs, the employee will feel seen and cared about. This will confirm a basic need, relevant to all of us. That of mattering.

All employees, despite elements of individual and cultural differences, should be provided with equal opportunities to be seen and recognized, not just for their good work, but for being a unique member of a community that cares.

Creating a more diverse landscape of employees who value themselves and one another is a best practice we all should keep in mind.

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