The Power of Relatedness

This article is the first in a series on basic human needs and the workplace.

Relatedness is one of three basic human needs. It refers to the need we all have to be cared about, to be cared for, and to be part of something greater. When we feel a sense of relatedness with the organization we’re serving, and with others in the organization, we become a vital force in creating important outcomes that are aligned with organizational goals.

When the need for relatedness is met at work, the organization benefits in several ways. Increased trust makes way for more information sharing, better overall communication, better collaborations, and increased opportunities for synergy.  Increased productivity and organizational commitment follow.

The Gallup Organization did a massive study on the characteristics of great managers. Most of the characteristics were a reflection of how well the manager related to his or her work team. For example, Gallup defined great managers as those who:

  • Give effective recognition
  • Genuinely care about the people they work with
  • Treat people as individuals rather than treating everyone the same way
  • Consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions
  • Observe that the quality and depth of employees’ relationships is a critical component of employee loyalty
  • Know their employees talents, strengths, goals, commitments, and values.

In terms of helping employees find a connection between themselves and the organization, Gallup defined great managers as those who:

  • Help employees to see the full scope of a decision and to understand the reasoning behind it
  • Explain the rationale behind their decisions when employees’ desires and managers’ decisions differ
  • Continually strive to help employees understand how the company’s mission or purpose directly relates to individual duties
  • Translate the company’s purpose into language that each employee can understand
  • Help employees make sense of new initiatives and thus gain true acceptance and understanding

Further, the study states that, “When strong engagement is felt in a workgroup, employees believe that their coworkers will help them during times of stress and challenge.”

My own experiences agree with Gallup’s findings and with the findings of Richard Ryan and Ed Deci who defined the basic need for relatedness. I remember sitting on a bench in Olympia’s Sylvester Park one day back in 1993 with Doug Spohn. Doug was interviewing me for a consulting position with his career transition program. I remember him reading my resume and asking a few questions. Then, he looked at me and said, “Wow, I think you have a really unique perspective.” I was so surprised. I could tell he believed what he was saying. At the time I felt like a complete outsider. I had left the music business a few years earlier and was trying to establish a new career in a town that was overwhelmingly government oriented. Something about Doug’s comment startled me into an awareness that I might really be able to contribute something important. It also inspired my loyalty to him in an amazing way. Shortly afterwards he hired me. It was the beginning of one of the most productive work relationships I’ve ever enjoyed – and we are working together on a project as I write this. Doug’s belief in me, and his ability to understand and relate to me, continues to inspire some of my best work 24 years later.

How can you inspire great results through relatedness? The points above from Gallup are worth taking to heart and reviewing daily. More details on each point are available in our summary of Gallup study which was published in the Gallup Business Journal from March 22 – June 7, 1999.

Additional resources to consider

Ways Thrive At Work Can Help

Use our contact form (bottom of page) to

  • Our Lead With Your T.O.E.S workshop (2 hours) teaches leaders and work teams how to relate positively with each other for stronger outcomes. It can be used effectively to further optimize relationships and effectiveness when things are going well, and is also effective in particularly tense situations when other methods have failed.
  • We are experts in group facilitation. If your group needs help getting started or needs repair, consider hiring us to facilitate.
  • Our Strengths Maximizer workshop boosts relatedness in your group by helping each person know their most meaningful, energizing, and effective actions. This knowledge paves the way for more efficient delegation and collaboration, more appreciation of each other, and more opportunities for synergy.

1 Comment

  1. Linda Tilson on June 4, 2017 at 6:42 am

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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