Which Emotional Needs Can Be Fulfilled By a Job?
We spend about a third of our lives at work. This equals roughly 90 000 hours spent earning a living. It goes without saying that it is in our best interest to ensure our working environment is healthy.
But what is a healthy working environment? Ideally, it would be one that fulfils our basic emotional needs.
The importance of fulfilling emotional needs in a relationship is commonly discussed. But the fact that said needs should also be met in professional life remains omitted.
The truth is, it is crucial to pay attention to emotional needs at work. Here are a few ideas of how they can be met in the professional context.
What are emotional needs?
Let’s start by defining emotional needs. Emotional needs are all the conditions which have to be met in order to provide a good level of overall satisfaction.
The term itself is very broad, and; therefore, emotional needs will be very different for every person. While there is a general indication of what everyone requires to be happy, every factor will carry varying levels of significance for each individual. It all depends on our personalities, goals, and preferences.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to define the basic human emotional needs following the model created by Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs divides them into 5 categories:
The two top levels of the pyramid representing self-actualisation and self-esteem are the most relevant in the professional context. However, certain needs from the area of safety and security and love and belonging could be applied as well.
Which emotional needs can be fulfilled by a job?
We will start at the top of the pyramid and make our way down.
Different professions come with varying levels of creativity applied on a daily basis. For example, positions in the art sector, graphic design, or marketing, will require more creative abilities than, say, bookkeeping or accounting.
However, that is not to say that only openly creative jobs provide any sort of creative outlet. All kinds of professions require some dose of creativity – even the most unsuspecting ones.
Teaching. Engineering. Construction. Science. Neither of those sectors is probably the first to come to mind when thinking about creativity, but all of them require huge doses of it, once we think about it deeper.
No matter your personal preferences and professional qualifications, your job should allow you to express at least a minimal amount of creativity to ensure a balanced fulfilment of all emotional needs.
No matter whether we want to admit it or not, all humans are driven by an intrinsic need to be accepted. Some experience it in a more significant way than others, but even those who like standing out have to feel they belong in at least one social context.
A working environment which is not accepting is a toxic one. The workplace should be somewhere everyone feels safe pitching ideas, expressing their views, and exchanging advice. It is impossible to always agree with everybody and accept everyone’s suggestions, but at the same time, no one should feel irrelevant.
Even if professional relations are only limited to working hours and there is no interest in taking them outside of the office, each employee should, at the very least, experience acceptance from their colleagues for the duration of the working day.
A key term in the professional world. We all need to feel that all the years we have spent working contribute to our experience in all aspects – skills, knowledge, industry insights.
The longer we have been doing something, the more familiar we become with it. This leads to an increase in our overall competence in that area which, in turn, improves our confidence.
While it is important to constantly develop and step outside of our comfort zone once in a while, we shouldn’t neglect the importance of doing things we are experienced in – in which we feel comfortable and which bring us joy.
Without a doubt, work is one of the main factors providing purpose for many people. Yes, we all often dream of a life consisting of constant holidays, living outside of the daily routine, and doing whatever we want, whenever we want.
But the truth is, all human beings need structure. Even the most chaotic souls require some kind of pattern in their life. Getting up to work is what brings many of us purpose.
If you don’t feel like your job does it for you, then maybe it’s a sign it is time for a career change. We shouldn’t compare professions based on their value in society – your job is valid, as long as it provides you with a feeling of purpose and meets your emotional needs.
If that is lost and you realise you have been operating on autopilot, you should take steps towards satisfying this particular need once again.
At the end of the day, we all want to know that what we are doing makes sense. Nobody likes completing tasks just for the sake of getting them out of the way.
If we don’t feel like what we do has meaning, we will lose all purpose. This will result in neglecting two crucial emotional needs at the same time.
Your job should come with a sense of meaning. Again, it is not a matter of comparing yourself to others – as long as what you’re doing makes sense to you, you should keep going. The moment it stops is a signal that maybe a change is necessary.
6. Inner potential
Everybody is talented at something. Ideally, our jobs will reflect those talents and help us reach our full potential in order to meet our emotional needs.
The professional environment is the ideal place to spread our wings and demonstrate our worth. It is in the employer’s best interest to provide employees with training and other opportunities to develop. Upskilling is a crucial element of a successful career path.
If you feel like your job does not provide enough opportunities for professional growth or is not connected to your area of expertise, looking for a new one might be the right step towards meeting your emotional needs.
Professional accomplishments play a huge part in boosting our confidence. Of course, work-related success is not crucial to achieving overall satisfaction with who we are and where we are in life. But having a job we consider good (whatever that means to each individual) can vastly contribute to how proud we are of ourselves.
A good way to ensure your job meets your emotional need of confidence is verifying whether it offers career advancement options, such as promotions. There is no better confidence booster than being entrusted with more responsibility – and offered more money to go along with it.
Your career path should not be flat. On average, people are expected to change careers 7 times in their lifetime. This means that if your current employer refuses to express your value as an employee by addressing your accomplishments in the form of a pay rise or a promotion, you should look for one that will.
It can be extremely discouraging to keep on working for years without being rewarded once. A job without prospects can be damaging to our emotional needs and negatively impact our quality of life – not to mention ruin your self-worth.
If your current position does not offer opportunities to climb up the ladder, finding a more prestigious one somewhere else is an achievement on its own.
3. Respect of others
It goes without saying that mutual respect is a non-negotiable requirement of a healthy working environment. Your job should fulfil this particular emotional need above all others.
Of course, it must be said that no type of job should impact the amount of respect we receive outside of the workplace. The notion that certain professions are more “noble” than others will hopefully soon become nothing but a dark memory of the past. Every worker deserves equal respect, regardless of their job or position in the hierarchy.
If you do not feel respected in your workplace, reconsider whether staying there is worth it. Many of us might not want to admit it, but the respect of others is a very crucial emotional need. Its absence may weigh heavily on your happiness and carry long-term consequences, so remember that your mental health is not worth staying somewhere lacking mutual respect.
4. The need to be a unique individual
Certain environments, especially in large, multinational enterprises, may make us feel like just a number among many. The notion of being nothing more but a replaceable part of a well-oiled machine is damaging to our self-value.
While it is not possible for everyone to know everyone’s names in a big business, that does not mean you should go to work every day wondering if anyone would even notice if you didn’t show up. If that is the case, your workplace is failing to meet this particular emotional need.
The reason why employees are divided into teams is to ensure tighter micro-communities. Even if your accomplishments may not be possibly acknowledged by the very top, they should be celebrated in your immediate team.
Every employee brings a different point of view and input into the general performance of a company. Your value as an individual should be made clear both to those around you, and to yourself.
Love and belonging
1. A sense of connection
Again, we spend a significant part of our lives at work. Even if we prefer the company of our family and friends, given how much time we spend with our colleagues, it is in our best interest to form some kind of bond with at least a few of them.
Even the most introverted of us need a sense of connection – it’s just how humans are built. Spending a few hours every day in a place where we don’t feel like we belong is a source of unnecessary stress.
Forming bonds with colleagues also contributes to an increase in productivity and efficiency as a team. 91% of employees agree that team members who learn new skills together are more successful – both as part of a team and as individuals.
Safety and security
1. Resources / financial stability
Struggling to make ends meet is a huge stressing factor. We all experience instances when there is too much month left at the end of the money, but dealing with this issue for longer stretches of time can have a significant impact on one’s mental health.
Your job should provide you with enough means to ensure a decent life. This is especially important in the current times of recession and mass layoffs.
When your salary no longer keeps up with the rising costs of living, there are two options to consider. One, negotiate a raise with your boss. Or, if that does not work or is impossible for whichever reason, look for a better-paid position.
Both prospects are nerve-racking – the latter possibly even more than the former. However, it is arguably even harder to worry about your finances every waking moment. Your work has its value and you deserve to be accurately compensated for it.
Not only all of the emotional needs described above can be fulfilled at work – they also should be fulfilled at work. The hierarchy of importance among them is a very subjective matter. However, we should take care to meet as many of them as possible to ensure balanced well-being.
Meeting our emotional needs is not only our personal task, but also that of our employer. The perfect workplace doesn’t exist, but everything has its limits. If you feel like one or more of your emotional needs are heavily suffering due to your job, it might be worth considering looking for new opportunities.
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