Good team relationships are essential if you want to be happy and productive at work. Having successful team relationships may also make you more creative and even help develop your career. And 1 way to build, develop and maintain strong team relationships is to make sure your interpersonal needs - and those of the people around you - are met.

What are interpersonal needs?

All humans have basic physiological needs, such as oxygen, warmth, food, drink, shelter and safety. But beyond these are interpersonal needs - that is, what you need in order to develop strong relationships and effective communication with other people.

According to American psychologist William Schutz, there are 3 main interpersonal needs people look for and are motivated by when they get together as part of a group or team - namely inclusion, control and affection.

Schutz may have developed his theory of interpersonal behaviour - called Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) - back in the 1950s, but it’s still highly relevant today. Here’s what you need to know about his 3 essential interpersonal needs:

The need for inclusion

Schultz explains that inclusion motivates people to create and maintain relationships with others. Inclusion means not only the need to belong, be recognised and included yourself, but making other people feel included too.

If your aim is to improve relationships in your team, there are many things you can do to make people feel accepted and that their contribution is valued. Here are a few things you could try:

  • Make a list of the things that make you feel recognised and included. Then try applying them to the people you work with
  • Invite your team members to join after-work social activities every now and then
  • Organise a regular team lunch and arrange de-stressing team walks in your local park or green space
  • Offer positive feedback when your colleagues do a good job or when they achieve a goal. Try to be specific rather than general - tell them why you appreciate what they’ve done
  • Ask colleagues for their input and opinions, or for their help solving problems (this suggests you value their contribution)
  • When someone new joins your team or department, make an effort to talk to them and find out about their life and interests. Then share something positive about them when you’re together in a group

For more ways to make each member of your team feel more included, read our article 5 ways to remove barriers in the workplace.

The need for control

Some people have a powerful need to be in control and influence others and to make all the decisions - these are the people who naturally take charge of a group or team. Others simply prefer to take a back seat and let others take the lead.

Knowing which of your team members are leaders and which are followers can be important for the effectiveness of the team as a whole - try finding out who’s a leader and who’s a follower by discovering the different types of personalities in your group (read our article Better work relationships: understanding personalities).

When you discover which of your team members are most strongly motivated by the need for control, encourage them to take charge, set goals, express their opinions and assume responsibilities. This will show you appreciate their talents and skills. Also try to recognise when a team member has more expertise on a given matter than others, and allow them to take the lead accordingly.

Meanwhile those who are the least motivated by the need for control shouldn’t be seen as weak. They are valuable team members in their own right, as they are usually more agreeable and easier to work with, as well as more trusting.

The need for affection

People also have varying degrees of need where affection is concerned. Described as the desire to establish and maintain an emotional connection with others, affection may be a strong motivation for some of us, while others are less driven by warmth and closeness, and prefer to keep their distance.

If it’s important to you that you’re liked by others and you feel comfortable discussing your feelings with your team members, it’s likely you have a strong need for affection. But if talking about personal matters makes you uncomfortable, or if you rarely act in ways that encourage closeness to others, your need for affection is probably much lower.

Again, knowing how strongly the individual members of your team are motivated by the need for affection can help you communicate with them more effectively. For those who are strongly motivated by affection, here are a few simple ways you can make them feel more cared for:

  • Ask them questions about themselves - their career hopes, their lives outside the office, their hobbies and interests
  • Try to be sensitive to their feelings. Take note of how they react in different situations and try to assess their mood. If you sense they’re upset or feeling down, ask them to tell you what’s wrong and really listen to what they say
  • Treat the other members of your team the way you’d like to be treated. Practice putting yourself in their shoes and seeing the world through their eyes. This can help you to be more thoughtful towards your colleagues.

If you’re looking for ways to improve the way other people see you and at the same time boost your confidence, join us on our course Develop your personal brand. You can take part in a full-day course at locations across the UK or take the course online, where you can work at your own pace and in your own time.

Our career development services are also available free to past and present ICAEW members and their families, including career coaching and career adaptability courses. Also find out how well you’re coping with changes in the workplace by using our career adaptability tool.

For advice and information call +44 (0) 1788 556 366 or chat to an advisor online 24 hours a day.