Chris Bailey of alifeofproductivity spent 10 days working in complete isolation. Among insights about eating and cleanliness, he noted that he was “less motivated, energetic, enthusiastic, and happy” than he had been in a long time. He attributed this to the lack of people around him who provide him the meaning for his work.
This affirms what we intuitively know to be true. Relationships are important because they give us meaning and motivation. At least, those are the two reasons we will focus on right now. The first is a transcendent value, the second a utilitarian value.
1. Relationships give us meaning
Humans crave meaning. It is almost annoying how often movies will try and seem important or deep by asking the question “Why are we here?”. It is annoying because it is obvious and easy, not because we don’t understand it. Most recognize this pull.
In relationships, we both need and are needed. We enjoy and are enjoyed. In relationships, we have a position in relation to others.
Through relationships, no person is an island. Jeff is a friend to Sally. Sally is a mother to Jennifer. And Jennifer is the girlfriend of Billy. All these people have roles because of the relationships they are in.
Be proactive. Create a work environment where your employees don’t leave their meaning at the door. Cultivate relationships in your work environment. That has transcendent value.
2. Relationships motivate us.
Bailey writes, “When you take people out of that equation, either a), you’re not able to accomplish much, or b), what you do accomplish doesn’t mean a hell of a lot.”
Several factors push towards this conclusion. First is obvious: people push us. If you take away the fuel for an engine, you’re only going to get so far. They motivate us positively by celebrating successes with us, and they motivate us negatively because we don’t want to let them down.
Second: the things that we accomplish that have real value, have value in how they affect people. If we produce more food, more people get food. If we build a great building, people get to enjoy seeing the building.
In interpersonal work environments, if you succeed, someone else also succeeds. If you fail, someone you know will likely be hurt because of it.
Promote relationships in your work environment so that your people are motivated and do valuable work.