Repeat after me: These are not normal times. Be prepared to offer more emotional support to friends, family and colleagues. Consider the emotional context of your work and changes and allow others to share their responses or risk surprises and disappointment.
Not Your Usual
As the Australian summer ends and the work year begins again, I’ve heard a lot of stories that sadly don’t surprise. Many people have had emotionally charged experiences with relatives and friends through Christmas, New Year and the summer. Relationships have been highly emotional even with Australia’s relatively benign conditions for the pandemic, perhaps even because there are relatively benign conditions.
Christmas is an emotionally charged time in families in the best years. Many experience add pressure because it is a time of taking stock, work pressures and financial stress. This year the experience has been supercharged by separation, deferred celebrations and the residual emotional issues of loss, isolation and strained relationships. It’s little surprise that emotions can boil over.
Many others have expressed to me the sense that it is difficult getting back to the normal level of activity and energy. People have lost outlets for leisure and relaxation. Some feel guilt that things have gone well while others struggled. Work is a now major part of family and the home. With major changes in the way we work and its pressures, people are reflecting again on work, its rewards and its challenges. For some there are significant changes to be made that bring stress and risk.
A global pandemic has ways of messing with our life, our work, our hopes and dreams. During that experience, we are focused on just living day to day and getting through it alone and ideally together. For some crisis breeds solidarity and for others a suppression of our emotional options as we focus on survival.
As we move on beyond the crisis phase of the pandemic to live with as an ongoing part of our lives, then new and complex emotions arise. All the moods come all at once.
A Time For EQ
In business we tend to discuss emotional intelligence as an abstract and occasionally useful skill that we use in between or around work. In this time of heightened emotion, emotional intelligence is a core skill in all relationships. Emotional intelligence isn’t a training course. It needs to be a part of every work and social interaction. This is not a time to delegate EQ to HR or the team ‘people person’.
Begin meeting with a check-in for all participants. It is a simple step to give teams a chance to share how they are feeling. It also helps teams identify those who might need more conversations and support especially in remote work scenarios.
This is a time to ask ‘Are you OK?’ and wait to listen actively to the answer. The story may not come out at first but if we take time to understand and invest in our relationships then there will be rewards in the depth of engagement and reduced risks.
Whether coaching, mentoring or management, now is the time for one-on-one discussions with team members. Invest the extra time for regular conversations with your team, your colleagues and other important relationships. Make sure you understand what is going on for these relationships in their important relationships. Family and relationship stress is contagious.
Difficult emotions when unaddressed rarely improve on their own. Annoyance can become resentment and explode into anger. Frustration can grow or subside into lack of engagement and even depression. Even an excess of enthusiasm and a cheery disposition can be a part of a coping mechanism to mask deeper challenges. Earlier conversations are likely to be easier than later ones. Earlier help can be transformational for people struggling with the complexity of emotions at this time. Modern organisations have a lot of support for employees mental and emotional health but too often it goes unused because people don’t feel able to take it up.
All our work and social relationships are with humans. Those carefully chosen people come with talents and potential but they also bring a rich, diverse and complex emotional history. Those emotions may well be at the fore at this time. Ignoring the richness and diversity will cost you in individual and team performance and it will mean you likely fail to realise the potential of people you have carefully chosen in your work and life. If ever there was a time to engage with the moods of your unique collection of humans, it is now.