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”The Need to Belong” - Challenge Status Quo – Let’s go “all in”! (Part III)

The Need to Belong 

The Need to Belong is the strongest one of the drives and the easiest (relatively speaking) way to drive a person forward to the end goal and success.  It might sound simple (common sense) when you read it to understand that we are social animals and thus want to belong to other humans that we feel that we belong to.  

But what is the downside of this human drive?  

Well, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Will the team members question the team manager or others within the team?  
  • Will they “question status quo” if they feel something is skewed or off?  

Well, this drive hampers that possibility. Since questioning might put you outside of the group and working against the need for belonging.  

But it is not as simple as that. A group of social individuals will go through different phases throughout the lifecycle of the team or relationship both as a group and as individuals. I will cover the basics and call them Honeymoon, Conflict, Producing and Separation. Some say Forming, Norming, Stormin and Performing and there is a flurry of different names for these depending on who is writing the book. I would like to point out that there is no absolute truth in science, so I settle with the notion that there are many models depending on who is trying to sell it as a book.  

The Need To Belong is comprised of a lot of science and since you all want to read more about it. Here are the references (Chaiken 1979, Gefen 2002, Haidt 2008, Haslam 2012, Hatfield 1993, Krienen 2010, Latané 1970, Walton 2012, Wilson 2004, Zak 2012).  


The Need to Belong is strong since you do not want to be excluded so you accept a lot of imperfections in your teammates/partner. The team/individual is highly motivated to create the team and wanting to perform. It is the same in private relationships.  


 The Need to Belong might start to decrease. Need stands for motivation which in turn is under the influence of the Social Exchange Theory or cost/benefit ratio theory (Floyd, 2009) that dictates if you're staying in a relationship or not. It also dictates if you like a website or not. 

In this phase, team members start setting clear roles and boundaries in what they accept from the other team members and that takes a toll on the relationships and the need of belonging. They argue about who does what and step on each other’s toes and start to question if this is right for them.  

Same goes for private relationships.  

This is the time when humans not understanding or accepting the basic flow that humans goes through in every relationship, private or professional, usually leaves the relationship by quitting a job or ending a private relationship. The ending is usually based on bad communication and a lack of vulnerability. If someone is “Questioning Status Quo” then this will be the time they will do it. 

It is good to keep in mind that questioning the team’s decision to go “All in” might appear here but it also might result in members simply resigning or leaving the team/relationship instead of losing energy over something they do not feel is going to work. Thus, the Social Exchange Theory or “cost/benefit ratio” (Floyd, 2009) theory working its magic here.  

The downside being that neither parties or members learns from it and will probably continue to walk into same situation, repeatedly, which in turn leads to the same result.  

Usually around 40 years of age individuals tend to see their own patterns and starting to question if it is themselves that are putting them in the bad situations. Hopefully they seek aid through therapy to address the problems accordingly and grow as a person and change their behaviors.  

Yes, this is referred to as the middle life crises.  


The Need to Belong drives the team members closer and they start delivering but the downside is that they probably are so in tune with each other that they stop questioning things that doesn’t work or is purely bad. Habits are already set in stone here. Therefore, hampering “Questioning Status Quo”.  

When a team starts to question things here they drop back to the “Conflict” phase, for that issue, and lose momentum. “Questioning Status Quo” here will inevitably result in a reduction in production for the team, small or big loss depending on issue, and might result in team members leaving the team.  

I got the feedback from a proofreader that another book says it better. I understand the persons point of view and can see the mental model of the proofreader. But let’s be clear. If you stop working on something you have agreed upon as a team to start a discussion about an issue.  

Does that NOT mean you lose the time spent discussing the issue?  

And if someone in the discussion does NOT agree with everyone else.  

Does that NOT mean that the person is in a conflict with an issue or someone that has put forth that issue? 

Therefore, the individual is in conflict at that time with either the whole team or some of the team or someone in the team or with the persons own values depending on the issue. 

On a side note. If this is not clear to you then maybe the word "Compromise" is the same for you. Compromising is a loss for both parties and never a good thing because no one wins. Both parties loose when they compromise. And for both parties to feel that they have won something they actually need to win something. Thus, compromising is a bad idea.

It actually comes from war tactics. Loosing ads to the Social Exchange Theory or “cost/benefit ratio” (Floyd, 2009) and the cost side. Thus, making the relationship more prone to die instead of grow and get strong. Good to think about in a private relationships if you want it to endure time.

Usually a team bounces back and forth between conflict and production and even if the team is in production there might be team members that are in conflict depending on personalities and current state of mind. 


In this phase members leaves a team or relationship and move on. The need of belonging has dissipated and or another group or issue has a stronger pull for “The Need to Belong”.   

Simply by making everyone aware in which phase they are in; the team can address any issue to better reach the goal and “question status quo” more frequently. 

In the next episode I will be addressing “Common Sense” and what is important to know about it before you use it in one of your behaviors.  

So when you think about high performing teams you might not want to forget that you need to address and make sure that the team members feel that they benefit from the team so that the cost of maintaining the relationships is less than the benefits.  

--> Part IV - "Common Sense"

Chaiken Shelly. 1979. “Communicator physical attractiveness and persuasion.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37(8): 1387-97. Doi:10.1037/0022-3514.37.8.1387. 

Floyd, K. (2009). Interpersonal Communication: The whole story. New York: McGraw Hill. 
Gefen, D. (2002a). "Customer loyalty in e-commerce." Journal of the Association for Information Systems no. 3:27-51. 

Haidt, Jonathan, J. P. Seder, and S. Kesebir. 2008. “Hive psychology, happiness , and public policy.” Journal of Legal Studies 37. 

Haslam, A., and Stephen Reicher. 2012. “Contesting the ‘nature’ of conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo’s studies really show.” PLoS Biology 10(11), art. No. E1001426. 

Hatfield, E., J. T. Cacioppo, and R. L. Rapson. 1993. “Emotional contagion.” Current Direction in Psychological Sciences 2(3): 96-99. 

Krienen, FennaM., Pei-Chi TU, and Randy L. Buckner. 2010. “Clan mentality: Evidence that the medial prefrontal cortex responds to close others.” Journal of Neuroscience 30(41): 13906-15. Doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2180-10.2010. 

Latané, Bibb, and J. Darley. 1970. The Unresponsive Bystander. Upper Saddle RIver, NJ: Prentice Hall.