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How bosses can encourage emotion for a healthier workplace

It is risky to ignore the feelings of team members. Engaging your employees and getting them to show emotion helps foster a more positive, supportive workplace, says AccessEAP.

Insight and awareness around the feelings of others is a skill that can be learned and developed, and upskilling managers to both identify and manage their own emotions, as well as those of employees, is “vital for a harmonious workplace”, posited workplace employee assistance provider AccessEAP.

“Emotions and vulnerability are part of who we are and that doesn’t just go away when we enter the workplace,” AccessEAP clinical director Marcela Slepica (pictured) said.

“Opening up to colleagues and letting them know when I was feeling vulnerable, allowed me to make real connections, gain support and feel better sooner. Leaders should show compassion and support workers to do the same, simply put, leaders need to lead by example.”

Understanding the impact that feelings can have on a worker’s ability to function and knowing how to manage them are essential skills for leaders, AccessEAP continued.

“Someone who is unhappy or burnt out will impact on others, and while they may be present, are they productive? It’s estimated that to replace a full-time employee, it costs a business around six to nine months of that person’s salary, recruitment and training costs,” the provider said.

AccessEAP outlined five tips on how leaders can encourage emotions and thereby create a positive workplace:

Start at the top

Leaders set the tone for organisational culture and communication, the provider said.

“They can implement proactive resilience initiatives that aid wellbeing and engagement, resulting in an increase in productivity and of wellbeing factors by up to 40 per cent. They can also role-model acknowledgement and acceptance of emotions through talking about their feelings and demonstrating that having and exhibiting feelings is normal.”

“It’s important to model the behavioural responses that you want to see in others. Role-modelling is important, as employees will typically mirror the behavioural standards which are set by their leaders. This may include having broader conversations which show an acceptance of emotions and showing compassion. Encouraging people to open up could lead to them receiving needed support or help.”

Support constructive conversations

“At some point, we’ve all experienced a well-intentioned attempt to have an honest work discussion which has led to hurt feelings and further distress. Often, this results in avoiding these exchanges altogether,” AccessEAP said.

“However, creating an opportunity to have these discussions and to clear the air can be very beneficial. Constructive conversations training or coaching can provide leaders with the knowledge and skills to have these talks and manage negative emotion. The training covers communication skills and includes active listening, de-escalation and working towards compromise.”

Improve self-regulation

“Leaders must show the ability to control or redirect impulsive actions and feelings that might negatively impact a highly charged or difficult situation. Try to remain uninvolved in office politics or conflict and avoid impulsive decisions. If you are struggling to manage your own feelings, try waiting a few hours or days before responding or making a decision.”

Learn about emotional intelligence

“The best way to develop self-awareness, self-regulation, self-motivation and empathy is to practice these daily in the context of your work environment. This creates a culture which encourages and empowers employees.”

Focus on mental health and wellbeing

With mental health issues receiving significant attention in the media and with 72 per cent of employees asking their employers to champion mental health and wellbeing, leaders need to create an environment where talking about them is normalised, AccessEAP said.

“Sharing their own strategies for promoting mental health and wellbeing allows staff to open up about their own experiences and to ask for help. This creates a psychologically safe workplace and a positive culture for all team members.”

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