Things Every Construction Manager Needs and Five Of Them That Take Careers to the Next Level – Part 1

Balancing Basic Human Needs and Career Aspirations in Construction

Reading a well-explained online study on basic human needs and how to not only fulfill them but also do it in a sustainable, healthy way got me thinking about how each of these areas plays out in the workplace. After all, if we are not keeping in balance during our working hours, we create a greater need, desire, and burden to compensate for the imbalance during our personal time. There are five needs on the list of nine in total that, if met in the workplace, can take your career to the next level!

Meeting Physical Needs in Construction Management Careers

The first and obvious overall need, although not necessarily one that will take your career to the next level, is your physical need. How many of you are like me and, unless lunch is scheduled, can find yourself well into the day and not have taken time for nourishment in the form of something other than popcorn or a protein bar on the fly? Do you hear from your doctor or trainer to remember to drink one-half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, only to find that at the end of the week, the intention was there but the goal fell short? Do you get caught in the rain and work in wet clothes or forget to keep a covering handy for when your co-workers crank down the AC? Do you do your best to practice self-care in the workplace? For me, it takes planning, scheduling, and often help from others, and although it doesn’t play into my workplace success, it plays into my ability to remain healthy at home and work.

Ensuring Safety and Security in the Construction Workplace

Safety and security fall next on the list. A lack of safety in the workplace can quickly end someone’s career, livelihood, and life—not to mention the emotional and financial loss for their personal and work families. If you work for a company that does not value safety, you are either in a position to do something about it on a corporate level or get yourself and others out. There is no compromise on this one. We still have 4.5 people on average a day losing their lives in construction here in the US and more than double that in the overall workforce.

A sense of security in the workplace is important, although many people resign from positions in fear of a situation that is not factual or an amendable circumstance. If you are concerned that your employer does not have another project for you, or corporately they are having financial challenges, having a conversation directly with a lead executive who is aligned with the financial facts and the organizational chart is the only way to verify hearsay.

Cultivating Understanding and Wisdom in the Construction Industry

Recently, a candidate shared that, in the recession, he resigned from an employer with whom he had a wonderful relationship, and he loved his job at the company. He had an open door for communication and could use all his skill sets and help others succeed. He confessed to me that he made assumptions at the time of his resignation that his generous salary would be the first to go with layoffs. He chose to resign, justifying that he was trying to save not only the company but also a co-worker’s job that he knew would not be as valuable on the open market. The co-worker was excellent at the superintendent role yet had no preconstruction or project management skills and experience, like the man telling me his story.

The construction manager sharing his story with me had no discussions with his boss prior to interviewing for and accepting another job and resigning. His former employer was devastated, and this construction manager said he was steadfast in his decision, not realizing he was slated to play a critical role in the plan to remain profitable in the recession. The construction manager’s position was not only secure, but his role was needed because of his vast experience and history with the company.

Both he and his past employer thankfully survived the recession—but with more wounds than needed. After the recession, the construction manager eventually went back to the company he left, yet the relationship was never the same. The security for both him and his employer had been in the relationship and experience they had together before it was breached. Just like in a personal marriage, security is built with open relationships and working through good and bad times together. Anytime you choose “flight instead of fight” without conversation, even to help another, you breach security and future trust. Security in the workplace is only found through vulnerable trust.

Creating a Sense of Belonging in Construction Teams

Although number three in my study, first on the list of needs, if met in the workplace, that can take your career to the next level is a sense of belonging. When you are employed, you have two families: your personal and your business family. If you do not feel a sense of belonging with your work family, the negative effects can include feelings of alienation, friendlessness, having no roots, or being unaccepted—severely impacting your career advancement.

A sense of belonging falls under the overall human need for love. In the workplace, it is demonstrated by feeling like you fit in and are contributing to the success of your team, projects, or departmental goals. There is a big push for companies to take the lead in this area, which provides a bridge for employees to cross. Yet a sense of belonging starts with each individual actively developing relationships with others on a more personal level beyond just the next task at hand. If the individual is present at company-initiated events yet doesn’t join in, a sense of belonging cannot be forced. Relationships don’t just happen.

One of the bridges we provide at our company is to encourage teammates to have lunch together, and we provide for those lunchtimes that help them get to know each other on a more personal level. We also offer training and team-building activities.

If you join a company and do not feel like you belong, as their culture and core values do not align with your core values, yet your work product is excellent, in time, you can feel unfulfilled. Yes, even if you are abundantly compensated. The reverse holds true when everyone likes you, yet your likeability is not in line with your contribution to the responsibilities assigned to you. When an individual stays in a loveless marriage, whether personal or professional, they choose to risk divorce or carry the burden of unreciprocated love. Your ability to love and be loved is critical to taking your career to the next level. We’re already seeing humans replaced with robots. In some cases, the only difference in the workplace is a beating heart willing to connect emotionally with others in a relationship.

Building Self-Esteem and Self-Respect for Career Growth in Construction

Next on the top-five needs to take your career to the next level are self-esteem and self-respect. Self-respect, self-esteem, self-worth, and self-regard are all terms that play into your success or failure with your career. One of the comments I have made over the years is, “If we take ego out of construction, then nothing gets built.” Ego, as defined by Webster, is a person’s self-esteem or self-importance. When it comes to your career, healthy self-esteem and self-respect are demonstrated through communication and action. Self-respect is a basic sense of one’s own value, not vanity or false pride but a proper sense of self-regard—a conviction that one is a self-worth being.

Examples of when self-esteem or self-respect is off balance are when:

  • The person regularly puts themselves down by saying, “I am not good at that,” or stating that others are consistently better than they are.
  • The person often brags about what they do or are good at to the point of annoyance to others.

The most obvious signs in the workplace are when people cannot take constructive criticism or, when asked to adjust something, say things like, “I never do anything right.” Have you ever seen someone walk off a jobsite or have a meltdown in the office over something that, to most people, would have been a typical ask? Interview questions like, “Tell me about your strengths and weaknesses” or “What type of support do you require to be successful in your role?” can uncover self-esteem imbalances.

The balance of self-esteem and self-respect in the workplace comes with developing “humble confidence,” which is the ability to discuss what you have been responsible for and what you have already learned from your work, school, and personal experiences, all while recognizing what you don’t know and showing your desire for the opportunity to grow professionally and your willingness to learn.

Without developing self-esteem and self-respect for yourself in the workplace, your career will, at best, remain stagnant as it starts with you believing in yourself and what others are trying to offer you.

We covered five basic human needs in this blog, with two being necessities to advance your career. In the next blog, we will give you the other five.

Until then, may your physical, safety, and security needs be met as you feel a sense of belonging with healthy self-esteem and self-respect. You are fearfully and wonderfully made and made for a purpose. Our industry and this world need you and want you to succeed. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise.

To Meeting Your Basic Human Needs,

Suzanne Breistol




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