The Emotional Content Also Matters at Work
The workplace has changed. It is no longer just about salary, benefits, or training. It is also about inspiring with a shared purpose, and it is also about leadership that coaches and mentors its team members. Workplaces need to offer spaces where employees are happy and productive, as well as where they can be mentored. Having work-life integration initiatives provides some of that. However, these days, employees are giving a lot of weight to their emotional experiences at work. In fact, this is part of the “belonging” in DEIB.
Emotional Experience At Work
It is no secret that emotional experiences at work are key factors in job satisfaction. Employees with higher job satisfaction have increased happiness at work and vigorous motivation levels. The thing is, negative emotions in today’s workplace abound. That is a significant insight because negative emotions create a more negative view of the workplace. That is why leadership equipped with emotional intelligence skills is essential. Thus, your leadership development program must include training on respect, mindful detachment, and empathy to improve employee engagement. These emotional intelligence skills pave the way for you to become a mentor and a coach and thus an outstanding leader!
On the one hand, respect helps us keep everyone’s dignity intact while dealing with work-related situations. In fact, true respect is issued in a triple dose by making sure that your body language and your tone of voice align with your words. Then, mindful detachment allows leaders to base their decisions on what is best for a team, rather than on what they believe or feel is right. And finally, empathy helps leaders understand the perspective of others and relate to their emotions and feelings via either emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, or compassionate empathy.
We define empathy as the “feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions.” It’s not the same as feeling sorry for someone else, as compassion and sympathy will have us do. I never actually understood the difference between the three until a team member experienced the loss of their mother to COVID-19 while their mother vacationing in Europe. When I heard about that, I placed myself in their shoes and thought about how it would feel to lose my mother while she had gone away on a vacation. Imagining the event felt awful, devastating.
I was ready to do anything and everything that I could to make work life better for that team member. But I was old enough to know that I had to ask a couple of things first before going all out. So, I asked first, “how do you feel?” They said, “I do not know how I feel because my mother and I had a very difficult relationship.” And there it was…what I needed to empathize with was their feeling of ambivalence, because that was exactly what they were feeling. They had clarity as to not knowing how they felt about their mother’s death. And they actually asked to continue working without interruption because that was the best thing for them. Wow, did I learn a lesson!
I was ready to go all “omg, I can imagine your pain… I understand how difficult and hard this loss is for you,” etc., etc. But just one question clarified that all that empathy required of me was to say, “I understand.” Period. There was no need to process and share my feelings with the employee based on my imagining how I would feel had my mother died while vacationing. That is not empathy. I just needed to not make it about myself by asking how they were feeling and then empathizing with those feelings and emotions. Again, empathy is placing yourself in someone else’s shoes. So, it is best not to assume how the shoes feel. Always ask. How many of you use empathy as the dominant trait of your leadership style?
Digital age leaders who are mindful of how their employees feel are having a higher success with employee engagement and lower turnover rates. The good news is that you can start developing and/or strengthening your empathy muscle right away. Most of us can empathize to varying degrees. However, the skill is a bit hard to apply in the workplace. Once you master it, adding respect and mindful detachment to the way you relate to employees is easier. Thanks for your continued efforts in transforming workplaces into human growth spaces!