The Boss Show

Workplace wisdom with heart and humor

March 5, 2012

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Neediness

By Jim Hessler

I’m in a lot of public spaces where pop music is part of the background ambience, but I don’t listen much to it. It’s just there, filling in the spaces, making us feel better so we buy more stuff.

But the other day I found myself listening more intently to the songs at the coffee shop, and I noticed a pattern. Some of the song lyrics are pretty disturbing when you tease out the intent and the meaning. Popular music lyrics (and yes, the librettos of most operas) are often variations on one of these themes:

  • You’re the only person in the world for me.  You are so amazingly spectacular in every way that I can’t stop thinking about you all the time. Without you I am nothing.
  • If you only knew how much I loved you, you’d probably love me back.
  • When I’m with you I’m really happy and when I’m not, life is hell.
  • Since you left me I’ve started smoking crack and stealing candy from babies, and it’s all your fault.
  • In fact, if you don’t return my love I’ll probably commit suicide in a very public and violent fashion.

It seems like the lyrics of these songs represent a real need to either 1) be validated as a human being by the passionate and possessive affection of another, or 2) be the center of someone else’s universe.

Neither of these options sounds all that healthy to me. And these needy and insecure emotions show up in bad ways – even in the workplace. If our happiness depends largely on how much other people admire and need us, we form an ego identity around what we perceive or hope their feelings are regarding our value and attractiveness. It’s nice to be needed and wanted and maybe it feeds our ego to be at the center of someone else’s universe, but in the end we need something more substantial and intrinsic to stand on.

And yes I get it – a song lyric like this probably wouldn’t see many copies:

Hey baby, let’s enter into a mature and interdependent relationship in which we aspire to grow to our full potential as human beings in a mutually beneficial partnership…

No insipid rhyming couplets there, but maybe our bosses could get behind it if that’s the song we listened to at work.  If we took those lyrics to heart, we’d be more motivated, more productive employees.


About the Author

Jim Hessler bootstrapped his way from retail work into a successful career as salesman, sales manager, Fortune 500 executive, and corporate turnaround engineer. Along the way, he developed The Leadership Platform, a proven model for training managers to become sustainably better leaders. It became the basis of his leadership primer, Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guild to Building Your Leadership Platform. Jim is the founder of Path Forward Leadership Development Services.

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