A New Year Brings Hope
With New Year’s Eve just days away, I’m reminded of how many people are starting to prepare their resolutions for the coming year. Some would call it pointless, others justify it as a means to “start over”. It’s almost as if this one night serves as a beacon of hope for people to achieve their dreams: losing weight, finding a new job, doing something they love, traveling, finding love - whatever it is, how can you criticize someone who hopes for more despite their many struggles?
I, too, hope for more in many aspects of my life. It’s because I’m driven, incessant, persistent, and, despite those qualities, there are days where I feel like an epic failure. Like so many moms, I have days where I hope to simply show up and be able to physically put one foot in front of another to get to my location. As a mom, I wish that I sometimes wouldn’t be so short tempered with my children. As an entrepreneur, I wish that I was better at selling my own product. As a corporate business woman, I wish that I would handle certain situations differently. In a world where we are moving towards a “life for moms who don’t have to do it all”, I still sometimes feel like I have to do it all. And I definitely act out (e.g. tears, anger, etc.) when things don’t go as planned. So what can we do about it?
I follow a woman on Instagram, her handle is @drbeckyatgoodinside, and, I’m telling you, she really does make you feel good inside. She is a parenting psychologist who helps the moms of Instagram. She is a no-judgment, lets-talk-through-problems, everyone-has-feelings, we’re-all-working-through-shit, now-lets-figure-out-how-to-talk-through-it kind of mom. It’s not easy to admit that you are struggling and somehow she makes my worst mom (and professional!) days feel like I am not doing so bad. I believe a lot of what she says, though directed at our families, can and should be applied in a professional setting (Maybe I can get her to do a collaboration with me one day 😉).
Back to the topic of struggles and how she can help us professionally, here is what I mean:
Dr. Becky talks about children not being afraid of information, but rather the absence of information. I think the same holds true for adults - We are most fearful when information is withheld from us. It causes our minds to gravitate towards the worst-case scenario. Of course, as bosses, we recognize that there are situations where we cannot divulge information. But that doesn’t mean this should become a best practice. If you are wondering why an employee is acting out, I ask you, “Did they just get turned down for a promotion without any feedback? Did you bring in a team of consultants for a project and not communicate their purpose (most people assume consultants are there to “clean house”)? Did you give someone on your team new responsibilities that someone else had hoped to receive? Or maybe something is going on in your employee’s personal life.”
Whatever the reason, you might be thinking that the employee is ungrateful or their feelings are misplaced. I can assure you it is neither. Even as adults it is so important that we are effective and proactive in our communication, even if we think it will hurt someone else’s feelings. Why? Because when we don’t, this causes unnecessary confusion and frustration to spread in our organizations. This is when people act out or perform poorly, neither of which is good for the organization.
Let’s come back to that point about ungrateful employees: Dr. Becky says that we don’t feel “un” feelings. Ungratitude is not a thing. People are most likely experiencing big, dysregulated disappointment. For example, if I was hoping to receive a $15,000 raise with my promotion and I only received the standard yearly 3% increase, I might feel slighted. I might feel a strong sense of disappointment that my new title, responsibilities, and job function are not valued the way that I (or the market) feel they should be.
I can tell you from personal experience that I have received a promotion with a zero dollar pay increase and it is disheartening, unmotivating, and genuinely disappointing. The next time that you have this thought about an employee, take a step back and try to see the situation from their perspective - How would you feel if you were passed up for a promotion and you didn’t receive feedback as to why? How would you feel if you received a promotion with greater responsibility and little to no salary increase? You might feel disappointed. Once you put yourself in their shoes, you might be able to find a communication style that will help them hear the reasons behind the message that you are trying to deliver.
I’ll just quote Dr. Becky directly here: “Better than learning how to manage during a meltdown is learning what we can do in advance to stop a meltdown before it starts.”. I bet you have never thought of an adult having a meltdown, that word is typically reserved for children. But take a step back and think about the many tricky moments we, as managers, have to maneuver on a daily basis. We deal with the thoughts, emotions, and actions of all of our employees, which can sometimes seem irrational to us. What can we do in advance to stop an adult meltdown before it starts?
Think about an employee who has applied for a promotion, someone who hopes for more in their career. They have the necessary work experience, skillsets, and are excited to take on new responsibilities…. But their coworker applied as well. You can only choose one and both have similar levels of experience. It takes very little effort on our part to sit the both of them down to talk about how difficult the decision is given their similar backgrounds and what the future will hold for the team once the promotion is finalized.
So often we view something like a promotion as a competition with our colleagues. What could it look like once the decision is made? How will the two of them work together? If your coworker gets a promotion that they wish they had received, remind them how well it speaks to their character if they openly support that individual instead of tearing them down. Let them speak openly about their feelings surrounding this. “Talk through the tricky moments to come so that you pre-regulate by planning and practicing coping skills that they can draw from in a tough moment.” (@drbeckyatgoodinside).
Remember: The new year does bring hope. So as we head into this new year with our big aspirations and learn to regulate our feelings surrounding any disappointments to come, let’s remember that we are not the only ones with dreams. We are not the only ones who struggle at times. Our employees are people, too. Don’t forget they have their own sets of feelings. They have their own set of goals. And we are all just trying to do our best. So if you are wondering why a colleague or employee is not acting like their usual self, take a step back and see if they can help you understand what they are going through and/or how you can help them achieve their goals or work through a personal struggle.
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