The average employed adult spends at least eight hours at work five days a week. As a result, for many, work represents more than just a place where we go to earn money. The workplace is in fact an important source of social support and it’s not uncommon to form close and sometimes even life-long friendships there.
It makes sense, therefore, that creating a workplace where there is an emotional connection between employees and their leaders is important for productivity. After all, if workers feel safe and comfortable in their surroundings, they are more likely to come up with new ideas, take risks and admit to problems and mistakes.
Back in 2013, major research came to light in the BPS Occupational Research Digest about the leader-follower relationship. It raised questions about the emotional expectations of today’s workers. Whereas managers were likely to see offering emotional support as something over and above their normal duties; employees thought that this was what they were paid to do. Moreover when managers do provide this emotional support they expect their employees to reciprocate in kind.
Why is emotional support in the workplace so important?
Although it can be difficult to get right in the beginning, providing this kind of support is crucial if you want an engaged workforce. In fact, English aristocratic psychologist, John Bowlby even theorised that our emotional bonds are as crucial to our existence as food and water. Attachment or emotional bonding is based on feeling safe and secure in our relationships and in our environment and this is exactly what employees need in order to excel in their roles.
A study carried out by Harvard Business School even found that employees want to feel that their input is valuable to the company more than they want a raise or promotion. When asked, staff responded that most of all, they want their presence to be noticed and appreciated.
How do you offer emotional support?
Whether you have an employee going through a particularly difficult time at the moment or you want to incorporate certain behaviours into your everyday management style, here are some simple yet effective ways to offer emotional support to your staff:
- Move to a private space where you can talk to your employee uninterrupted
- Offer to call a colleague, friend or family member to offer extra support
- Be patient – sometimes just sitting quietly with someone is all the support they need
- Listen to what they have to say
- Don’t ask intrusive questions
- Don’t tell them what to do
- Don’t push for an answer
- Don’t make assumptions based on gossip
- Reassure your employee that you will do everything you can to help and support them
If you would like help, advice or more information about offering emotional support in the workplace, please feel free to contact Chiswick Consulting and we will be more than happy to help.