Approval the hidden face of fear

"Lean too much upon the approval of people, and it becomes a bed of thorns.” – Chinese Proverb

On our approach to unfold what is preventing organizational resilience, we start by looking at ways to measure the approval scale. It accounts for our need to be accepted by others and to increase or sustain our feelings of self-worth. While the desire to be approved of is natural, problems occur when approval-seeking becomes a need, and ultimately our standard way of interacting with others.

When we need approval, we typically try to please everyone but ourselves. An excessive need for approval is essentially an "emotional give away". This means in the interest of being liked and accepted, an employee "gives away" their beliefs, values, goals, sense of personal worth, direction in life, or ability to make their own decisions. Approval-seekers base their level of self-worth on how consistently they feel accepted. Their need for approval originates in a fear of rejection. These kinds of team members typically concentrate more intently on the impression they are making than on forming healthy relationships. They tend to be so anxious to please that they take cues on how to behave from those around them, saying and doing only what they think others expect.

What are the causes and symptoms of this sin?

  • Low self-esteem
  • Preoccupation with the opinions of others
  • An over-concern with being "popular" and well-liked
  • A tendency to be too agreeable, "wish-washy" and compliant
  • Difficulties with conflict, negotiation, and confrontation

Inevitably, this sin creates unwritten laws, such as doing things for the approval of others and “Going along” with others. These types of norms characterize organizations in which dissension is minimized, and interpersonal relationships are pleasant – at least superficially. Team members feel pressured to agree with, gain the approval of, and be liked by others. Therefore, the quality suffers because people are unlikely to express differences and communicate problems or are too likely to go along with ideas that don’t work.

Approval is very difficult to detect for someone on the receiving end because after all, who doesn't want to be proved right? Perhaps when it becomes flattery it becomes a little more visible, but pride will blindfold one and prevent them from seeing it.

So how to identify it?

If the first time you present an idea, initiative and action in a meeting and everyone agrees, there is no objection, and you leave the meeting happy: you have a problem...of approval.

How can this sin be avoided? Some tips:

If you commit it:

  • Voice your own opinions. Learn to think and act for yourself. Accept the fact that not everything you do will be met with approval.
  • Learn to become more self-directed by setting some personal goals. Start by setting a goal around something simple, work to accomplish it, and congratulate yourself on your achievement.

If you have an organization:

  • Don't sanction dissent
  • Don't surround yourself with courtiers

Don't miss the upcoming article, in which we will unfold conventionalism as the second-best excuse for doing nothing. If you want to know more about how to manage change and build resilient organizations, contact us!