Jon Katzenbach, Chad Gomes, Carolyn Black

Feelings are messengers of needs. Meeting needs unlocks positive feelings and energy; neglecting needs does the opposite. By integrating business objectives with meeting people’s needs, companies can make sure the strong wind of a positive emotional force is at their back. Emotions and feelings bring our needs — human requirements for survival — to our attention and strongly move us toward meeting them. 


Our feelings advocate for our needs. […] When we are in alignment with meeting a need, feelings push us forward: Positive feelings energize and motivate us. When a need is not being met, feelings slam on the brakes: Negative feelings such as anger and frustration block action and contribution.


This link between feelings and needs is well established and has been applied across many contexts to improve communication and relationships. But how does it apply to the workplace? The feelings present in a workplace, whether verbalized or not, largely determine employees’ motivation and ability to contribute. How people feel about their work is the most important determinant of success (or lack thereof) for any business. Feelings signal needs, and addressing or ignoring these needs in turn influences the feelings. By recognizing feelings, following them to needs, and acting to address the needs (engaging with what we call the feelings–needs link), organizations can consciously generate positive feelings and energy and create workplaces that are not only more pleasant, but dramatically more productive and successful.


Understanding what needs are being met in addition to those that are not being met is important; both groups of needs should inform behavior and environment choices for the organization.

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