Jan Evers
  This is the first in a series of four lessons in a unit on Communicating at Work. The lessons are: (1) Communicating at work: Five basic human needs (2) Communicating at work: Building a successful team (3) Communicating at work: Listening strategies and skills (4) Communicating at work: Facilitating good communication.

  Interpersonal relationships, Work environment

Learner Level:

Time Frame:
  1 - 2 hours

Learner Grouping:
  Whole class with small group work included

  This activity was developed as a spin off from PROJECT BRAVO, which is used with parents and schools to learn conflict resolution skills that help build resilient people. Resilient people are able to bounce back from negative situations and treat each other with respect while doing so. This is the first of four lessons in a series that include small group work, role-playing and other interactive activities. This particular lesson was developed with workers in any setting in mind, and was field tested with Summer VISTA Volunteers.


  Ohio Valley Educational cooperative Family Literacy Program

Type of Program:
  Basic Skills

Student Population Served:
  Basic skills (grade levels 5-8.9)

Communicating at work: Five basic human needs

Students learn about five "Basic Human Needs" through lecture and group discussion. __________________________________________________________

Learning Objective:
Learners will become aware of five Basic Human Needs and reflect on how to address these needs in the workplace.

Primary Skill:

Secondary Skills:
Reflect and evaluate

Learner Needs & Goals:
Becoming aware of these five basic human needs will help workers legitimize some of their own motivations and those of their fellow workers. It will make workers better able to empathize with each other and lead to a more productive and satisfying work experience.

Learning Activity Description:
(1) Warm Up Activity:
In an informal discussion, have the participants describe the last work situation they were involved in that was FUN & ENJOYABLE. Explain to the class that Fun and Enjoyment is a basic human need.

(2) Write "BASIC HUMAN NEEDS" in front of the class and draw a line down the middle of the flip chart. On one side label HOME and the other side label WORK. Initiate a discussion about basic human needs and move towards finding the similar needs that are at home and work.

(3) Introduce:

  • Belonging & Significance
  • Competence & Mastery
  • Power & Autonomy
  • Virtue & Generosity
  • Fun & Enjoyment
  • Discuss the meaning of these needs and ask for examples from the flip chart work of when learners have experienced these needs being met.

(4) Ask the learners to write on their index cards about a (personal, not to be shared) time when one or more of these basic needs were not met in the work place. Or write about a time that the learner acted as if these basic needs were not important in the workplace. Each person should include which basic need/s were not met, and how it made the person feel. (The purpose here is for learners to personalize the expression of these needs through remembered experiences.)

(5) On chart paper, write a different one of the five needs at the top of each page. Split the participants into groups of three to five people. If possible, make five groups to correspond to these five basic human needs. If there are not at least five groups, give some groups two pieces of the chart paper with different needs across the top. Each group then discusses and writes on the chart paper under the listed basic human need an actual example of how their group's basic need has been met in the workplace. Following the writing of how their basic need has been met, a discussion within the group should take place: "How did this make you feel?" The sheets of chart paper with the examples of how the needs were met should be posted around the room.

(6) Learners contemplate individually how they felt when their needs were not met and how they felt when their needs were met.

(7) The instructor then asks: "What types of things could have helped when your own BASIC HUMAN NEEDS were over looked?" Allow the whole group to suggest techniques that would help these needs be addressed in their own work situation. List these under the corresponding need on the posted chart paper under each group's example.

The instructor and class compare those that the class suggested to the following techniques:

    Get the worker involved.
  • When possible, offer choices. This is the easiest way to help them be part of the decision and become problem solvers. It gives them a sense of Power and Autonomy.
  • Find ways to involve workers in the decision making. Kindly and firmly show instead of telling them.
  • Use the "ASK-DON'T-TELL" Method. Ask questions to get the workers' responses or ideas. This builds problem-solving skills and teaches them to ask the right questions to themselves.

    Use your sense of humor.
    Everyone needs to have fun and enjoy life. Laughter can be the best approach to a situation.

    Show Respect.
    Remember that shame and humiliation are disrespectful. Kindness and firmness show respect for your workers' dignity.

    Provide opportunities to help.
    Workers often resist a command but a request for help is usually answered warmly.

    Be patient.
    Skills, routines and new behaviors need to be taught over and over to become natural responses. Don't take it personally when you have to re-teach a new skill. Learning a new skill is like breaking a habit or starting a new one. Repetition is required!

    Provide supervision.
    Supervision is the key to helping employees to following through on a task.

Materials and Resources:

  • 3 x 5 Index cards, Flip Chart, pencils, pen, markers
  • A good additional resource for the instructor (which could also be used with the class) would be the KET Workplace Essential Skills video, Part II: Communicating At Work: Working Together. It is a part of a PBS LiteracyLink project available through KET, The Kentucky Network - Enterprise Division, 560 Cooper Drive, Lexington, KY 40502-2200, phone (800) 354-9067.

Attachments: (For Internet Explorer users, right click on link then choose "Save target as". For Netscape users, just hold down the shift key and click on the link.)

Communicating at work: Five basic human needs

With learners still in their groups, each group will be given a different work scenario where one of these basic needs was overlooked. (Sample scenarios are attached.) Learners will try to recognize:

  • Which of the needs were overlooked, and
  • What could have been done differently so the need would not have been overlooked and workers would still have met their work objective. Each group will share their scenario and their solution with the class

As a group discussion, the class will then address how their actual work place could change to make sure that BASIC HUMAN NEEDS are not overlooked. Reflect with the class the objectives that were to be met. At the beginning of the next lesson, the instructor will ask how they put these BASIC HUMAN NEEDS to use since the last meeting. Keep a record of these behavior changes to share with management.

These VISTA volunteers all seemed to like the lesson. However, I am sure there would be changes others would make to accommodate their own teaching style and their audience.


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