Emotion and work are two words that might not automatically be linked together. Of course, we’re not advocating the reactive intense kind of feelings which can scratch their wounding indelible mark on your psyche. It’s all about the meaningful, more heartfelt sentiments that make us emotionally intelligent enough to relate to our people as… well, people. It sounds obvious, but when the hierarchical management mask remains rigidly in place, that veneer of separation can result in miserable, isolated and, often, resentful workers.
Post covid, research shows that depression is at an all-time high. A study from The Lancet showed that in 2020, there were an estimated 76m extra cases of anxiety globally and 53m extra cases of major depressive disorder. These numbers indicate a significant amount of folks coming to work who need a more understanding approach from their boss.
So, are you in tune enough to understand how your people are feeling? Lily, 42, who works in IT development, says that although her manager knew she was struggling through a painful divorce, he rarely mentioned it. “All I wanted was for him to show some compassion and ask me how I was doing,” she says, “And because he didn’t, I felt I had to conceal what was going on for me personally even more. The day my husband moved out of the family home, I was in a terrible state but still went into the office and tried to work. I’ve lost respect for my manager now; in fact, I don’t particularly like him.”
On our Untapped platform we often see bosses who do get it right – and some who don’t. Looking at their levels of emotional intelligence and working with them to understand the nuances of their behaviour is integral to our support. And the knock-on effect is significant because if these senior leaders are modelling good behaviour, the positive repercussions ripple through the business. James, a finance executive, looks to his manager for EQ inspiration. “Chloe is incredible,” he enthuses, “She can be in a meeting and read what is going on emotionally with everyone there. It’s like a sharp antenna, picking up the feelings in the room. Plus she always takes the time to check in with me, she is invested in furthering my career and she genuinely cares about my wellbeing. Above all, I know she’s got my back.” Another leader, who has a team of over 300, recently gave his smaller group of Directs a pay rise. Each person received a handwritten note highlighting their talents and thanking them for their hard work. Needless to say, his team are invested in giving their absolute best.
The way forward is simpler than it might seem. Much of personal progress is about choices; choosing to think beyond just getting the job done, choosing to build a deeper connection with those who you spend most of your week alongside, choosing to be brave enough to show your authentic self. Recently, in the business world, there has been chatter about happiness at work, with one of the oldest City law firms considering appointing a Chief Happiness Officer. Other companies have jumped on the bandwagon, touting their commitment to sending employees a copy of their favourite book to help them feel valued or organising walk-and-talk sessions to unearth how their day is playing out. While this is all good stuff, any psychologist will tell you that happiness is a fleeting emotion – and rightly so. If we were all walking around bouncing from one joyful moment to another, how could we ever understand the crucial layers of diverse feelings (some uncomfortable, difficult, even painful) that help to make us highly tuned and effective sentient beings?
For workers to be united in their goals, appreciated by their management, connected to their colleagues, confident enough to speak up, and perhaps, most crucially, ‘happy’ to go to work, then they need to feel emotionally sustained every day. And that takes commitment from each and every person who sits in a position of leadership. Last words from James: “My working day is made so much better by the support and insight of my boss. I can talk to her about anything, and she calms me down when I am feeling stressed. As a result, I work hard for her, my team and the overall company. Everyone wins.”
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