Three Words We Need at Work

Courtesy of Pixabay

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?


  1. Scott,
    This is a great question! I also believe it is uncomfortable for us to be vulnerable when we say “I need you”. At least for some of us. I love your deep thoughts, as always. Please keep writing. You have great talents!


  2. This is an excellent topic. Thank you for your wise perspective. I must confess, I found myself reacting in an uncomfortable way when reading the words “I need you”. What’s with this reaction I thought…almost unwilling to read the complete post. Pushing the notion of needing others, at work, away. Duh. I need each of my employees. I am them and they are me. We make our work journey fun and rewarding. Without them, there would be no company. Today we are having a Pizza lunch and passing out modest bonuses based on last years financial success. I plan to begin the lunch by reading your blog. I need you and we need each other. Thank you Mr. Mabry.


    1. Thank you, DW! What an encouraging story. I know how you feel. I felt a little uncomfortable writing this post so no surprise if it made some people uncomfortable reading it. It definitely stretches our limits in terms of communicating with others at work but at the same time, it really is just stating the truth. We do need each other if we are going to create a great workplace and achieve great things. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.


  3. Scott
    Wonderful! Did you work at Family Service?


    1. Thank you, Gretchen. No, I did not work at Family Service but I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.:) Appreciate the nice comment on the post.


  4. Hi Scott. A really wonderful post you have there. I shared this post with my co-manager and we agreed with how the three words “I Need You” matter to our team members. We practised this in our daily problem-solving discussions and we saw how our team always feel encouraged to do better than they were yesterday.



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