The Need for Acceptance

by Joanne Leitschuh

"Everyone wants to make a good impression, but is it vanity or insecurity that drives business people to publicly flaunt their success?"

It doesn't seem natural to always be introspecting about why you want to be successful in business. But what really drives you to succeed? Perhaps you get encouraged by getting the tasks on your to-do list done. Then come the little bonuses that help make all of the long hours in the office worthwhile. Maybe your diligence is directly related to the increased sales after the launch of a new product? Others in the office comment that your hard work seems to pay off.

At one point, you conclude that the monthly pay-check isn't everything. It's the quality of your work that is important. Deep down, you hope someone will notice. Without realizing it, you hope your success will allow you to be accepted by your colleagues. Just as in grammar school, when the sides were being chosen for kickball, you hoped your classmates would remember your last homerun and pick you for their team. You desperately wanted to fit in then and you still feel the need to fit in now.

The workplace is quite an exciting mix of intellectual, productive and social behaviours. In Patience Wheatcroft's article, "The Human Factor", (Management Today, March 2000), she says "Sometimes it's not all down to money. Sometimes what drives people to ever-increasing business success is a desire to be accepted… they want to gain entry to the club."

In a way, we are all performers in a play. We know our bosses and fellow workers can be critics. Understandably, if we get publicly demoted for making a bad decision, we later want to prove our critics wrong. That may be, as Wheatcroft writes, what motivated Gerald Ronson of the Heron group to be successful. He previously was convicted in the Guinness affair, but now holds annual prestigious lunches at the Savoy where he has the opportunity to reassure himself and his critics that he has made it to the top table. "He gave vast sums to charity, bought himself a yacht, but behind the stocky façade and the cigar smoke lurked a simmering inferiority complex."

Everyone wants to make a good impression, but is it vanity or insecurity that drives business people to publicly flaunt their success? Perhaps we have a need to regularly boost our self-image. Wheatcroft gives more examples of this. When one goes up the stairs of Tesco's headquarters in Cheshunt, the portrait sizes increase until you get to the larger-than-life representation of the founder, Sir John Cohen, just outside his office.

The Hiduja brothers had two main reception rooms in their London headquarters. One was decorated with photos of the brothers shaking hands with famous Left politicians, the other with those from the Right. Guests obviously would be directed to the appropriate room. Later, before they were enmeshed with bribery allegations, the Hindujas were in the Sunday Times Rich List. They satisfied their self-esteem by parading their success to hundreds of Parliament members back in India -- they ensured that each one had a copy of the list.

Perhaps we assure ourselves that we are not as prideful as these businessmen. If someone notices that our work is profitable, fine. If they don't, that's fine, too. But it does feel good to be accepted -- to be part of the winning team.

That's the advantage we have as Christians in business. We are always on the winning team. We have the confidence and inner security that Jesus is alive and well in us. He gives us the skills we need to be successful. His personal voice of "that's a job well-done" is all we need to drive us to higher and higher achievements. If we do feel intimidated by our bosses or co-workers, there must be a reason. What is He trying to show us about ourselves? Do we really believe that there is no security besides faith in Him? All self-esteem regarding our character and abilities is based on knowing that we are accepted by Him — completely.

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