strategic communicator - Author - Facilitator - Workshop Presenter - Ghostwriter

Meeting an Employee’s Need to Be Accepted Is EVERYTHING

Date - May 5, 2018

By Jennifer R. Farmer

“Do you like me?” is a four-word sentence that strikes to the core of a basic human need: to be accepted. Regardless of who you are or what you do, at some point, most of us will ask whether our teams, peers and managers like us.

I still remember when I realized the relationship with my boss impacted my performance. I was working in the Ohio Senate as a legislative aide for former Ohio State Senator Mark Mallory, who went on to become the first African-American mayor of Cincinnati. To know Mallory is to love him. He was dedicated to not only the district he represented but also to the legacy established by his father, William Mallory Sr., who also served in the Ohio Senate. Whenever a new staffer began in Mallory’s office, he sat the individual down and gave them the charge: a speech informing the staffer of their purpose in the office as well as the shoulders on which he or she stood. This provided the clarity that is a prerequisite for performing well. And once we knew his expectations, we were able to meet them.

Throughout my time in his office, I was always clear that Mallory not only liked me as a person but also approved of my work. He consistently complimented me on my writing, and he’s the reason I ultimately pursued a career in communications. I worked for him more than 17 years ago, and to this day, he remains one of my favorite managers. Working with Mallory, I learned the formula for when I produce my best work is when I’m clear that my boss likes and approves of me. When this basic need is met, I am emboldened to share ideas, and I feel comfortable speaking up and offering my perspective.

Alternatively, I’ve been in situations where I was gripped by fear that my boss not only didn’t care for me as a person but didn’t value my contributions. In these situations, I was fearful of taking risks that could produce innovative ideas. Because I was unwilling to take risks, I struggled to show up authentically and powerfully.

To flip this scenario on its head, I’ve been on the other side too; as the manager interacting with team members. Regrettably, there have been occasions where I’ve valued the product over the person; meaning I evaluated a human being based on what they could produce rather than who they were on an individual level. I discovered the same principle to be true; the people on my team who performed the best were clear of my like and respect for them separate and apart from what they could produce or how they contributed to the bottom line. Now, when I encounter roadblocks with team members, I’m learning to step back and assess the message that I, as their manager, am sending. In every situation where I have made a conscious effort to get to know a team member on a personal level and to express my like and appreciation for him or her, the dynamics of our relationship changed.

The times when I’ve failed as a manager have been when I didn’t take the time to get to know team members or when I was narrowly focused on the task and not the person. This approach didn’t turn out well for me, and I trust it won’t turn out well for you either.

As such, I’m reconsidering what it means to be a leader and am placing a higher premium on transitioning away from the person responsible for ensuring tasks get done to someone who asks, “how can I support you as you tackle this project?”

I’m discovering that being a leader is sometimes being a cheerleader. Imagine the people on the sidelines of a race. They’re passing out water, sharing encouragement and offering other resources that support runners to perform at their very best. Similarly, the best leaders know how important it is to be crystal clear in their support for their teams.

If you’re unsure how to help a team member improve, get really clear on the spoken or unspoken messages you’ve sent to the staffer. And when in doubt, double-down on your explicit support for him or her. I’ve learned this is the best path to creating a harmonious as well as productive workplace environment.


Jennifer R. Farmer is a strategic communicator and the author of “Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide.” Connect with her by following






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In the Media

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“Passion is not enough. Being effective in communications and PR requires creativity, responsiveness and relentlessness”Jennifer R. FarmerExtraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Step-by-Step Guide. Order now from Barnes & Noble, Politics & Prose or your favorite book seller.



Jennifer R. Farmer is a leading professional in communications strategy. For over 15 years, she has made her mark in social justice movements, working with entities as varied as PICO National Network, Advancement Project, the Service Employees International Union, SEIU District 1199 (WV/KY/OH), Obama for America, the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus and the Ohio Department of Transportation (in the administration of Gov. Ted Strickland). She is the founder of Spotlight PR LLC whose mission is to develop high-impact communications workshops and trainings.

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Testimonials and Endorsements

Jennifer Farmer is one of the smartest and most talented communicators I know. She’s passionate, knowledgeable and relatable about her work. Plus, when we spent time together, she made sure I never ate alone.

Ari Berman, Contributing WriterThe Nation

When we worked together in the Forward Together Moral Monday movement, Jennifer Farmer skillfully heard me. She allowed me to be myself, while teaching me and the NC NAACP staff foundational communications techniques.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Founder, Repairers of the BreachThe North Carolina State Conference of the NAACP,The Forward Together Moral Movement

The noise in the public square is deafening. And yet, more than ever, the ability to penetrate that noise so that your story can be heard is critical to successfully contesting for power. Jennifer defines a way to think and steps to take to insure your voice is heard. This book, filled with wisdom and practicality, is delivered with humor and passion.

Scott Reed, Executive DirectorPICO National Network

I loved this book. It is smart, practical and filled with personal examples that underscore the author’s central message: there are concrete things you can do to promote your organization with or without a large budget. Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget is required reading for anyone wishing to use strategic communications to make a difference.

Celinda Lake, PrincipalLake Research Partners

Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget is one of those rare books that is straightforward and poignant. It guides readers in crafting an effective and executable PR strategy – all on a budget! This is required reading from a trusted PR expert!

Becky Williams, PresidentSEIU-1199, WV/KY/OH