July 11, 2016
My readings of late have taken me to an arena of thought I believe has been largely untapped by well-meaning professionals seeking to get the most out of their employees.
Since 2008, “doing more with less” is the work mantra heard ‘round the world. Though the country is officially out of recession, the lingering psychological heaviness of “the other shoe” dropping continues to infiltrate most work sites as the majority of my clients will attest.
This article is meant to assist employers with attending to their employees’ well-being, which is not to be confused with wellness.
The difference? Employee wellness programs offer support for smoking cessation, weight loss, time management and the like, which are all well and good; however, an employee’s well-being gets to the heart of human connection, compassion and curiosity.
To create a workforce that feels connected with one another, cared for by each other and administration and that their supervisors are genuinely interested in them impacts mental stability and a business’s bottom line in a much more substantial and sustainable way. To increase an employee’s sense of connection to the company in which he works, a supervisor can simply begin by validating the employee. When an associate approaches administration with a frustration or concern, for instance, the person in charge might respond by saying, “I can see why you might be worried about that. I’ve felt that way in the past in similar situations.” Connection made.
Regardless if the boss agrees with the worry, or even if it appears to be an unfounded or over dramatized concern, validating someone else’s emotions regarding an issue is the easiest, quickest way to empower someone.
When we tell others “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “don’t let that worry you,” we’re inadvertently suggesting the employee doesn’t feel like other people, which only reinforces a feeling of disconnection.
Whether you agree with the concern or not, validating an employee’s feelings helps to calm down her emotional brain, also known as the limbic system.
Feelings are automatic and kick in before the thinking part of the brain activates. Employers can facilitate the transfer of information from the worker’s limbic system to the prefrontal cortex (“wise mind”) by acknowledging the feeling responses of his associates.
The employee senses he has been heard, connects with his boss, takes a deep breath and now the thinking part of the brain is engaged.
From that point in during the discussion, the supervisor is in a much better position to help the employee see different sides of the issue and come up with a more effective resolution.
Demonstrating compassion for others on the job site may seem too soft for some employers, or maybe supervisors are afraid workers will lose their edge if management shows genuine care for employee’s needs, stressors or other concerns both at work and/or outside of their occupations.
However, organizational research routinely concludes that employees who feel they are cared for by co-workers and supervisors exemplify more company loyalty and make fewer mistakes. That translates into safer job sites.
How do these correlate? If workers feel they can safely ask questions about tasks at work without being put down or teased, employees take on less physical risks and make fewer mistakes.
When employers create a culture of learning on site, productivity and time on task go up, absenteeism and personal injury go down.
Showing curiosity can be as simple as steady eye contact, subtle head nodding and appropriate, respectful inquiries about an employee’s status.
Demonstrating genuine interest in a worker’s interests on and off the job site also reinforces an employee’s sense of connection and compassion discussed earlier. It may not seem like much, but curiosity is listed as the No. 1 trait of an effective leader.
Maybe the supervisor asks about an employee’s mother who has taken ill or a child’s graduation from high school. If an employee recently attained a company goal or solved a difficult work issue, the manager might ask the employee for more details on how he made this happen.
Showing genuine interest in one’s employees is not only good for associates, but it may challenge other employees to mimic the same behavior.
When we all demonstrate authentic connection, compassion and curiosity at work (and at home), we support a business culture that is more energized, more collaborative, and less punitive. All the while we lower the stress hormone levels of our employees. Less stress translates into healthier employees mentally and physically. I assure you the return on your investment will be worth it.