How Do We Find And Give Support As The Workplace Remains Disrupted?
Photo by Filip Filkovic Philatz on Unsplash
Oh yeah, I'll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I'll say that something
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I want to hold your hand
I was chatting to a client this week, who told me that it is unlikely that her team will return to their office for about 6 months, and even then it won’t be ‘normal’. She is naturally rather concerned about the long term wellbeing of her team. According to the Conservation of Resources model, wellbeing is a “see-saw” with a balance point between our inner resources and the challenges we face. When we have more demands than resources, the see-saw dips, along with our wellbeing.
When we feel out of balance, or overwhelmed, it is useful to identify the demands we can reduce and resources we can increase. In my opinion interpersonal support is an extremely effective method of reducing the burden. For example:
Colleagues can provide support not only with work-related problems, they can also offer ‘‘an ear’’ to listen when other troubles arise in the workplace.
Support from supervisors and/or management may take the form of direct, instrumental assistance with job task problems and advice.
A positive relationship with supervisors may result in fewer job demands, reducing an individual’s feeling of being overwhelmed by work tasks
Support from colleagues acts as a buffer against negative outcomes in the workplace
I fear that as our work continues to be disrupted and we are not seeing our colleagues informally on a regular basis, we forget to identify and access our usual sources of social support. For some “support” may have the connotation of the requirement to do something big, and therefore the act of giving or seeking support is seen as inconvenient, or overwhelming. Interestingly this week a client told me told me about the cumulative positive impact of the many tiny moments of support he had recently received. Here are some of his examples:
The peer who helps navigate office politics
The friend who meets him for a weekly run
The colleague who laughs with him about the crazy antics of an irate customer
The smile from the local barista
The loyal client who provides polite constructive feedback and advice
The thank you from his boss for successfully completing a complex project despite extenuating circumstances.
I am not advocating that the other aspects of wellbeing are inconsequential. Yet we should always be mindful that our strong social ties are also very beneficial in enhancing our experience of positive emotions. Whilst reviewing the wellbeing initiatives that another client was providing for her team, she decided to list all the people who figuratively hold her hand. As she put her pen down, she reflected ‘My back has straightened, my tension is lifting, my mind is clear and I’m smiling.. it’s as though all these people are walking beside me and have my back. I must make a few calls of thanks this week’ Whilst we can’t literally hold hands with many people at the moment, take a moment now and answer the following two questions:
Whose hands should you figuratively hold? Who figuratively holds your hands?
Feel free to email me your answers. Is support always good and are we all the same in our needs? We can all recall a person who has provided what they thought was good support but in effect got it all wrong, or those who are always turn to us for support and provide nothing in return. Researchers have found, reciprocity impacts the experience of giving support such that wellbeing improves the most when you give support to those who support you in return. Yesterday when I was giving a client feedback on their Hogan Personality Inventory I was reminded that people who have a tendency to be self-reliant do not feel comfortable when being offered support, so remember to tread with caution and courtesy. Not surprisingly, people who are adept at using their social resources to manage their emotions, generally forge stronger relationships with others and benefit more from social support after real-world emotional events. For those who need tips as to how to ask for help, click here for my past blog.
Nahum-Shani, I., Bamberger, P.A. and Bacharach, S.B. (2011). Social Support and Employee Well-Being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, [online] 52(1), pp.123–139. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4423745/ [Accessed 17 Jan. 2020].
Dodge, R., Daly, A., Huyton, J. and Sanders, L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, [online] 2(3), pp.222–235. Available at: http://www.internationaljournalofwellbeing.org/index.php/ijow/article/viewFile/89/238?origin=publicati.
Williams, W.C., Morelli, S.A., Ong, D.C. and Zaki, J. (2018). Interpersonal emotion regulation: Implications for affiliation, perceived support, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 115(2), pp.224–254.
Schutte, N.S. and Loi, N.M. (2014). Connections between emotional intelligence and workplace flourishing. Personality and Individual Differences, [online] 66, pp.134–139. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914001998.