The Startup
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The Startup

Three Words We Need at Work

The simple truth we rarely speak.

I’m curious.

When was the last time you heard these words at work, if ever?

“I need you.”

From a manager?

And not as the introductory part of a sentence as in, “I need you to up your game” or “I need you to get that presentation out today”.

Just the three words. No strings attached.

How did that make you feel?

Or how would it make you feel?

Maybe there’s a little involuntary cringe because it’s about you and extends some vulnerability. And it also might feel pretty good. Don’t we all want to feel like someone needs us? That we matter?

Have you ever spoken those words to someone you were leading or to someone with whom you work?

Same questions as above.

When I think of receiving these words, I feel grateful, encouraged and appreciated. In the role of offering these words, I find them freeing and uplifting.

Life doesn’t make any sense without interdependence. We need each other, and the sooner we learn that, the better for us all.

Erik Erikson

And that makes me curious why this message seems so rare and out-of-place at work, at least in my observation. What does it imply that makes us so uncomfortable?

Is it that it somehow implies we aren’t strong enough to go it alone? Or perhaps it’s the thought that the other person might not reciprocate or might let us down.

Does it infer that we like everything about that person? Are we making a promise that we’ll have to keep? Is it a threat to our power?

Maybe there’s an unspoken belief that needing each other isn’t really relevant in the workplace because we have bosses and performance reviews and job descriptions that oblige us to cooperate.

It seems like that’s the deal in the world right now. We’re all in some sort of denial about the truth that we need each other to survive, to thrive, to make the world better or save it from collapse. But I digress.

I’m just wondering if we were willing to speak those words once in a while and admit our dependency, our need for cooperation and our appreciation for the unique contribution of others, what might happen?

Who would benefit?

What kind of space might that create?

How would it affect our communication?

Our perception of each other?

I’m curious.

Are you?

Originally published at on February 28, 2018.

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Scott Mabry

Scott Mabry

Make the world a better workplace. @scottamabry

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