Micro-interview with author Dan Pink

April 2, 2015 Darcy Jacobsen

Dan PinkWhat does it mean to have a more human workplace and how can businesses cultivate it? What’s the connection between the human workplace and recognition and motivation?

These are a few of the questions we asked Dan Pink, author of several bestselling books about business, work, and behavior. His most recent book, "To Sell is Human," draws on a rich trove of social science to reveal the new ABCs of moving others, which include new rules for understanding other people’s perspectives.

As part of our “Three Questions” series of micro-interviews, we recently asked Dan to share his expertise on the importance of humanity in the workplace. Here’s what he told us.

1.       More and more we are seeing leaders talk about wanting to bring humanity to the workplace. In your view, what does it mean to have a more human workplace?

It means establishing policies and building cultures that go with the grain of human nature rather than against it. For instance, most people – by their very nature – want to have some control over what they do, when they do it, and who they do it. Most people, again by their very nature, want to make progress and get better. Most people want to know why they’re doing something alongside wanting to know how to it. Yet in many organizations, culture and practice suffocate these innate human drivers. Things would work a lot better if they actually gave these desires room to breathe.

2.      What are some ways you think businesses can cultivate a more human workplace?

Lots of ways. For starters, less control and more self-direction. I’m convinced that freedom-centered cultures aren’t just more human; they’re also more effective. Businesses could do much, much better in providing feedback to employees so they know who they’re doing and so they can improve at something that matters. And most businesses would benefit from having explicit conversations about their purpose – talking out loud about why everyone is showing up to work and why their contribution is important.

3.       How do you think recognition and motivation connect with this idea of a human workplace?

Recognition is important for at least two reasons. First, it’s a form of feedback. People need to know how they’re doing, because when they don’t, they can drift. Recognition is information they can use to sustain high performance. Second, it’s fair. If someone is performing at a high level, making a huge contribution to a company’s success, they deserve to be recognized. The need for feedback and for fairness are things that make us human. A little more of both would make workplaces more human, too.

Learn more about how to cultivate a more human workplace at www.workhuman.com.

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