Leadership

Pffft, emotions of employees. How do I deal with that?

Henk Veenhuysen
by Henk Veenhuysen
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Are you able to hold your own, in conversations at work, when strong emotions come into play? You may feel uncomfortable because you don’t really know what to say in this kind of situation. How skilled are you at creating a safe setting for everyone, at times like this? So what conversation techniques are useful?

If you feel comfortable having uncomfortable conversations because you know what to say or not say in these types of situations, your colleagues and/or co-workers will feel better heard, supported and understood. Your attention to the other person’s emotional well-being will positively affect not only job satisfaction but also the results.

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Would you like to feel more comfortable in conversations involving emotions? You’ll read about it in this article.

An uncomfortable example …

Many people do not know how to give themselves an attitude very well when something emotional is shared with them. An uncomfortable example:

Petra’s mother passed away (too young) and as a result she is not at work. After a week, her supervisor (Patrick) decides to call her to see how she is doing. Petra picks up the phone and decides to share her feelings with her supervisor.

She takes a deep breath and says, “you know Patrick, I’m really devastated and I feel completely physically and mentally empty…” It stays quiet for a moment on the other end of the line and Patrick says, “Well do what you have to do and I hope to see you again soon.

From the practice of ‘IK Overtref me’ (names have been changed)

I think you can imagine that for Petra, to this day, this reaction is etched in her memory Of course, it was not Patrick’s intention but it was the result.

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And there are more examples; supervisors or colleagues who ask how you’re doing and then don’t handle it very well. They don’t know how to react in this kind of uncomfortable situation.

An important first step is to “check in” on the other person’s emotions and feelings. Phrases (language) that you can use in these kinds of emotional situations are an important part of this “checking in.

It’s better not to say things like this

Check out the sentences below. If you say phrases like this you are probably destroying more than you would like. You obviously don’t mean it and you say it with the best of intentions because you are empathetic. You want to help the other person to feel not that bad or unhappy.

Or you may feel that emotions don’t belong in the workplace (for example, because you find it difficult yourself). You do this by discarding the other person’s emotions. This makes it harder to understand what the other person is going through and that emotions are often an opportunity for growth.

Often then you hear phrases like this when someone is struggling:

  1. You don’t have anything to be sad about, do you? you have a sweet partner, don’t you?
  2. Everyone feels sad sometimes; you don’t have to worry about anything.
  3. It could always be worse …., right?
  4. Maybe you should get a good night’s sleep …., then things will probably get better.
  5. Everything happens for a reason ….

When you say these things you take away the other person’s power. It gives the impression that the other person’s emotion is unnecessary. Indeed, the other person already finds it annoying that he/she has these emotions. You reinforce that by uttering phrases like this. Your colleague or employee does not feel seen, heard or helped.

What is best to do when someone is struggling

In work situations like this, it is helpful if you can fall back on your own base of emotional intelligence. With a good dose of EQ, you feel at ease with your own and others’ emotions. It creates a good connection between people even at tough times.

5 Conversation techniques when emotions play a role

You can use these conversation techniques when emotions come into play in the conversation.

  1. Acknowledge what happened.

    One step you can take is to acknowledge what is happening. For example, “I understand that this is difficult for you.” By doing so, you are saying that you believe the other person. This recognition means seeing the other person. This is important when someone is going through a challenging period.

  2. Try to understand

    Offer an opportunity for your colleague or co-worker to talk a little about the situation (if they want to). For example, “Would you like to tell me more about it? This shows that the other person matters. And that you want to know a bit more to be able to do something.

  3. Offer support

    If someone is in a “struggle” you could ask him/her the following, “how can I best support you at this time?”, or, “what do you need right now?” These kinds of questions help to support the other person in these kinds of difficult moments.

  4. Offer concrete help

    Sometimes people don’t really know what can help them or they don’t know the opportunities at work well. You could then offer something concrete: “could x, y or z help you? When you offer concrete help, it becomes easier for the other person to accept your help.

  5. Offer a different perspective.

    Perhaps you have had a similar emotional experience yourself. Then don’t jump right in by sharing this experience right away. What has worked for you does not necessarily work for the other person. So should you stay away from it altogether? Well no. Do ask for “permission” first. You do this as follows: “would it help you to hear from me what helped me in a similar situation?

Fixing is not necessary

As a manager, perhaps you naturally want to help to fix your emplyees unpleasant feelings. That’s not necessary. A safe setting, with the right conversation techniques, where employees have space to share their emotion with you and get support is needed, though. The ‘fixing part’ is the part they do themselves.

Free introductory call,

Run into a lack of assertiveness or self-confidence?

Want to get rid of that, once and for all? Then my 1-on-1 coach approach is really something for you. Lets get acquainted first, no strings attached. See if we have a 'click' and if I can help you.

> Schedule your free call now

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