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What To Do If Your Staff Won’t Socialize

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In the past six months, have you tried to form some kind of virtual social activity in order to keep morale up in your group? Perhaps you’ve found that not everyone is keen on participating, regardless of how smart, fun, or easy you’ve made it for them. If you’ve ever been confused about the best way to respond when you have some team members or teammates who don’t want to socialize, read on.

What’s the real purpose of this social activity?

First of all, make it clear to yourself what your aim is in scheduling these events. Is it to show the leader of the group that people are still engaged? Is it to build in something truly fun for people to experience? Is it to let off steam or manage stress, or is it to test allegiance to the group? Let’s take a moment to better understand what truly motivates people so we can get even clearer on what we’re after for our team and WHY.

Do you believe you (or the team leader) is able to motivate others?

Sorry, this is a common misunderstanding. We can’t motivate other people, at least not in a lasting or meaningful way. It’s an inside job. People are able to feel motivated, raise their motivation or notice it fall . . . all on their own. Only on their own. So can you affect it by creating conditions in the environment and make the normal state one of high performance, high energy, and movement towards goals, towards common goals? YES, and then people will choose to engage or not engage.

How do you create conditions so that people are apt to be more motivated, engaged, to have higher morale? Well, you understand what their core needs are and then you support those needs. It’s like having the formula to human behavior.

So what are those needs? Well, there’s a set of needs that I call the “PICTURE Model”…It includes five needs–not hierarchical like Maslow’s hierarchy is– universal in that we all feel them to a certain degree, but there’s variation in how strong each of those needs might be for each individual.

[WorkingSmarts has a live course, an online course and a mini-course that go deeper into discussing the differences between people and their needs and gives you the nitty gritty about what each of these needs look like and what it looks like when they’re being not met or ‘aggravated’ or ‘threatened’. But for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to just skim across the top of the high level and give you the summary of what the needs are. And then at the end of this article, I’ll give you two links. One link will be to what I call the “Quick Guide to the PICTURE Model.” The second link will be a link to take the assessment if you want to purchase it and take it.]

The formula to motivating: meet their human needs

Now on to understanding the five PICTURE needs so that you can boost your team’s focus, energy, and camaraderie in a way that WORKS!

We need to know how power and status are distributed in groups

The first need is POWER. We all have the need to understand where the power lies and where the status lies in groups that we’re in or groups that are around us. This could be a group of two or three. It could be a group of a hundred, it could be a group of a thousand or a whole community. If we don’t know where the power lies, because it’s hidden or masked or unclear to us, that creates anxiety in many of us.

So if you have a low/moderate need for power clarity, you’re a person who isn’t too uncomfortable when power/status distribution is unclear. If you have a strong power need, that means it really bothers you when you can’t tell who really holds the power in a group. One way that this need is aggravated would be when there is a vacant leadership position in any level of the organization, when there’s uncertainty about who will temporarily take the power in the group, while there is a vacancy. If this need is strong for you, it might be something that you’re easily distracted by or preoccupied by.

We need to know we have access to information

The second need is the need for INFORMATION. This is not the need for more information or more data. It’s actually not the information, the data that we crave, it’s knowing that we have access to the information. So, what aggravates this need is when there’s something to be known and you don’t feel like you have access to it. An example of this might be hearing rumblings in the organization that there will be layoffs or a restructure but not knowing where to get reliable details.

We need to feel we have some discretion in how we do our work

The third need is CONTROL. This is the need to have some say over the way that we do our work. It doesn’t mean that we necessarily expect that we could call all the shots, but to whatever degree is important to you. We want to have some jurisdiction, some decision-making authority over the way that we get our job done or that we accomplish our tasks. So if you’re a person that has a low need for control, you’re comfortable with getting an assignment or project and going to your supervisor or manager for frequent feedback. You appreciate reassurance that you’re on the right track or that what you’re working on was what your boss had in mind.

If you’re a person that has a high need for control, you like a lot of freedom, right? You need a lot of space. If you have a boss that is doing frequent check ins with you, you’re likely to interpret that as breathing down your neck or micromanaging. *This is a need that generates conflict and misunderstandings when two people have different needs for control and are misinterpreting each other’s behavior.

We need to feel connected to our work

The fourth need is TETHEREDNESS, and it has three types. This need is about the connection we care about with our workplace. We all need some amount of connection to our work, though it can look different from person to person. None of the three types is better than another.

The first type is “individual.” If you are a person who has a strong need for togetherness connection to other individuals, then you’re going to need eye contact. In these times, when we’re doing a lot of remote work, you’re going to probably crave Zoom time, where you actually see other faces and you interact real-time. If you don’t have a very high need for that, you don’t crave that. You’re pretty much okay, doing your own thing remotely without a lot of interaction with your coworkers.

Now, of course, misinterpretations can happen here too, because if you’re a person who has a strong tetheredness need and it’s individual, and I’m not, I have a low need for this to be met, then you might think that I’m aloof or cold or antisocial. . . This comes up all the time in workplaces. I might read you as too gossipy or not having a good work ethic or not task-focused enough, misusing your time. So there are all kinds of judgments that–if we’re being honest–we make about each other based on this.

Now if you feel tetheredness of the group type, you are a person who is jazzed about the work that you do as a unit. You are energized by trying to improve efficiency, trying to maintain a good reputation with other units across your organization, process improvements. So you’re less interested in birthday parties for the team, comparing notes on what movies you watched over the weekend, or whose kids had a baseball game. You’re more interested in the tasks of the work that you do as an individual and as a group. And yes, there are definitely misinterpretations and unfair judgments that are made depending on where you are on this continuum as well.

Finally, the organization type of tetheredness is strong for people who are comfortable working in a number of different roles and areas of the organization. They are energized by the mission of the organization and have a number of gifts that they could offer in different places throughout the organization.

These people can be misread too. People who are individual and group tetheredness types can see organizationally tethered people as tuned out, living in their ‘ivory tower’ thinking that they’re better than us worker bees; the organizationally tethered types might look at group and individual types and perceive them as not strategic minded or big thinkers.

We need to know that fairness is valued

The fifth of the PICTURE needs is RIGHTNESS. If you are a person with a really strong need for rightness, you need to know the basis that decisions are made on. You want the criteria. You need to know that things are done fairly and justly. If you learn that decisions were unfair or unjust, you will have a difficult time living with it or letting it go. This learning may prompt you to make big, life-changing decisions like moving, changing jobs, changing careers, etc.

If you don’t have a super strong need for this, then you’re comfortable letting people who are making decisions, make them and trusting that that they were made on solid ground. You might not like the decision or the direction, but it’s not going to ruffle your feathers too much. You’ll move on with things and, and not be too upset by it.

Summing up

We can only create the conditions that let others have the chance to motivate themselves. The way that we create the conditions is largely by trying to meet the five PICTURE needs as much as possible.

So let’s go back to the original question, which was, what to do when somebody doesn’t want to socialize . . .

1. Get really clear on what the reason is that you want the group to socialize.

2. Try to meet those basic five needs when you’re designing an event or an activity, or a series of activities for people to participate in. You may have a lunch gathering that really meets the need of individually tethered folks. Then, you might have another type of social activity that is geared on the work. Maybe you have a, a fun, really active brainstorming process improvement session twice a month, for example.

3. Separate what YOU need from what THEY need. If you are craving the interpersonal connection, then you might be projecting onto the group members that they also need it and they might not. So choice is a smart principle. If activities are optional and whoever wants to show up can; if they’re not able or not interested, that’s fine. There aren’t any judgments made about why the person is not participating.

For the “Quick Guide to PICTURE Needs,” click HERE to download.

To learn about the PICTURE Model Assessment, click HERE to view details and purchase information.

For PICTURE Model Mini-Course information, click HERE.

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