Article (November-2018)

Articles

Develop mechanism to support and understand emotional health issues

Dr. Lalatendu Kesari Jena

Designation : -   Assistant Professor (HR), School of Human Resource Management

Organization : -  Xavier University, Bhubaneswar

01-Nov-2018

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How do you describe the concept of workplace emotions and how far it affects your professional and career growth?
LK We bring brains, and so do we bring our emotions to work!! Well, emotions are not something to be afraid of; as a beating heart ensures life, so as our emotions (i.e. the feelings) gives meaning to our existence. It's a long - held expectation that people should keep their emotions out of the workplace. Personally, I feel it is a part of who we are, and if we are asked to check emotions at the door, then are we really bringing our full selves to work? As emotions are inevitable the next important question that arises is, how do we deal with them once we enter at workplace?
Positive emotional experience in terms of good working relationships has a profound effect on professional and career growth. I am been fortunate to have genial bosses during my corporate and academic assignments those having the traits such as optimism, caring about others, inspiring each other, not playing the blame game etc. Such demeanor has endorsed an increased perception of fairness, commitment towards assignment and satisfaction at work among our team members.
The emotions experienced at work and transformed into moods just not stay in the workplace as the employee leaves work and heads home. The employee brings his or her mood with him/herself to his/her family. The family would appreciate if the person is in good mood, but a bad mood would negatively influence the atmosphere at home and would lead to more stress in personal forefront.
In reality is it possible to control your emotions all the time when you know you are spending more time at your workplace than your home?
LK The work environment has a strong influence on our emotions and affects our private life at home. When work gets to be stressful, it's easy to pass this frustration on to our personal lives. While we need an optimal amount of workplace stress to spur us on for performing at our best, the key to managing stressful emotions lies in that one magic word: balance. American Mental Health Association has prescribed a set of practical steps to loosen the grip that stress has on us and win back the balance between workplace and home. They are as follows :
a. Set manageable goals each day : Being realistic about workloads and deadlines. This will be accomplished through preparing a "to do" list and taking care of important tasks first while eliminating unessential ones.
b. Be efficient with your time at work : If we feel overwhelmed by routines that seem unnecessary, it is better to intimate our boss. The less time we spend doing busy work or procrastinating, the more time we can spend productively, or with friends or family.
c. Don't over commit : Do we feel stressed when we just glance at our calendar? If we are overscheduled with activities, it is the ripe time to learn to say, "NO".
d. Give yourself a break. No one's perfect! Let's allow self to be human and just do the best that we can.
In today's work world where multi-generational workforce is working together, what approach would be best suited for emotion management, since all these generations have different expectations and varied thought process.
LK Today's world of work is found to be polarized with a great degree of generational differences such as - traditionalists, boomers, Gen X and millennials. Traditionalists view their relationship with employers as a responsibility. Boomers are loyal as long as they feel involved but disengage rapidly when they think their contributions are not been appropriately recognized or rewarded. Gen X are pragmatic, skeptical of leadership, and are quick to disengage if they feel affronted. Millennials demand recognition for even routine tasks, want to know why before they do anything and expect to be consulted on matters big or small.
With so many incongruent expectations, one of the best ways for emotional management is to engage by creating a sense of team work that will span across generations. The work ethics of traditionalists can inspire all groups. The loyalty of boomers can help all employees to see the positives in the organization. The skepticism of Gen X will keep everyone honest. The enthusiasm and self-confidence of millennials is infectious and inspiring if it is channelized properly. It is suggested that to build organizational goals through a shared sense of work and responsibility, sense of optimism, healthy skepticism and confidence in the organization's mission and goal is must. The said approach is expected to meet varied expectations and thought processes among genres.
What is the role of HR in creating an environment for maintaining an emotional balance at the workplace?
LK Most of the times, the work environment can be emotionally taxing, with so many different perspectives and opinions coming together to occasionally cause conflict and stress. Executives across hierarchies often make one of the two mistakes while dealing with an emotional situation :
a. Executives attempt to downplay an emotional conflict and get to be a player in the emotional drama himself.
b. Executives simply ignore the job affecting emotions, with a hope that they will get resolved by itself.
When the executive or group leader tries to downplay or dismiss a worker's emotions, he or she inevitably creates a bigger problem. Therefore, HR functionaries are expected to train their executive staff to understand the emotional health issues such as depression, its causes and more importantly how to support employees. Periodically, HR department should analyze leadership styles across the organization and explore the interventions for motivate the employees instead of pushing them to the edge for achieving unrealistic organizational goals.
Building emotional capital as an HR strategy adds real value to the balance sheet. Some of the key HR strategies for maintaining emotional balance in organization are through :
a. Tailoring work arrangements to match the changing needs of employees.
b. Appealing to employee's strengths through providing tasks that presents creative challenges, clear goals and sense of control.
c. Recognizing employee's need to belong to a group by providing team activities.
d. Establishing a climate of trust - communicating what's going on regularly, to everybody.
e. Encouraging professional development for everyone.
How do you see the leadership styles evolve to cater to the emotional needs of the employees? Which leadership style would work best in today's times?
LK Emotions are a fact of life. For many, emotions are essential to engaging and committing fully at work. Leaders who discount this leave untapped potential on the table. Some of the most revered leaders in today's business share a set of common traits for catering the emotional needs of employees. I am inspired by Joel Garfinkle, one of the top 50 leadership coaches in the U.S. revealing the qualities of emotionally intelligent leaders that would work best in today's times :
a. Empathy : Great leaders are able to look at issues from manifold perspectives while considering the effects from other's point of view. The ability to put self in other's shoes while viewing a problem can be invaluable for finding a solution and gaining consensus.
b. Positivity : The art of being truly optimistic lies not only in the ability to keep a positive attitude in adverse situations, but also in being able to offer sincere and realistic leadership to the team. Great leaders can be positive in the face of difficulty and still be very much in touch with the situation.
c. Considerate : Caring and consideration can go a long way to creating a cohesive, high - functioning team. Taking the time to acknowledge others, noting their contributions and making sure they're heard can be invaluable in bringing out the best work from the employees. Great leaders know that getting to know their team members - professionally and personally - and caring about them and their careers will mean that everyone works better together in the long run.
d. Authentic : Authenticity is critical in leadership - that is being an open book with our intentions and our agenda. No amount of other leadership behaviors will make up for lack of truthfulness in what we say and what we do. Trustworthiness and follow through given statements may seem counterintuitive, but when a leader makes a mistake, he/she admit it honestly, and follow through with the actions needed to make amends. It is a lot easier to recover from a misstep than from a loss of trust.
While emotion is a very human concept, do you think technology does have a role to play in creating effective emotional management practices at workplace?
LK Of course, internet of things (IoT) in contemporary times is changing the way technology perceives human emotions. Innovative technologies that reflect the users daily emotional states were available in market for e.g. the wearable emotion sensors. Smart watches so called wearable emotional sensors help to coordinate daily work activities while avoiding potential health issues as the user can track and evaluate their physical condition and how they react to stress inducing situations, as well as their inbuilt programs makes the user to learn for managing stress and anxiety better. Some of such wearable devices instructs the users to practice a mind controlling technique or to breathing exercises to calm down or turn on relaxing music etc. Emotion sensing technologies and software fueled by artificial emotional intelligence can read and analyze not only skin conductance, breathing and heart rate, but also eye movement, facial expressions, change in voice etc. Amazing part is that, they do not necessarily require installing expensive hardware, but rather some recognition software or additional code for computers or smart phones.
Some of the world's elite coaches, teams, and individual athletes use headsets produced by San Francisco-based SenseLabs Inc. Their versus gear connects to an iPhone or iPad via blue tooth and has dry sensors for assessing brain performance. This makes it possible to   identify strengths and weaknesses in problem - solving, multitasking, resource management, decision - making, and sleep tendencies. Versus then provides customized exercise protocols to improve mental acuity, concentration, and sleep management.
Such, new emotion detection technologies could help employees make better decisions, improve their focus and performance in the workplace, manage stress, and adopt healthier and more productive work styles.
Tell us an incident which required you to exercise great control over your emotions while at workplace and your learning from it.
LK While serving at a major Indian defense PSU in the capacity of HRD (Training and Coordination) at its corporate learning center, I was been assigned along with the team of senior faculties to evaluate the 52 weeks induction training module for management and design trainees. Each phase of the training program gets evaluated by respective program leader and at the end of the entire exercise the scores are computed at HQ. Basing on relative cut-off marks the trainees were either been absorbed, or they were kept under review or they undergo an extension of their training period. The unsuccessful one's those were neither under review or extension use to get termination letter.
Handling the trainee officers those under review, extension and terminated one's at corporate learning center during the year end stands to be a major challenge for the HR team. For handling such emotionally charged moments our training head has advised that, to make sure the interaction is conducive to careful listening. Therefore, we the HR team use to take utmost care to let the trainee officers know that we value them and care about their perspectives. As we begin to share the reason behind the failures, the trainees generally interrupt by speaking over entirely and explaining their approach of learning during the induction training module. Some of the learning that was gained in due course are :
a. Such feedback discussion was greatly been carried out by my colleagues through asking questions to make sure to understand what triggered a certain action or behavior during the induction training module. While digging deeper if we believe our trainee officer has done something wrong during the training programs, it is to make sure to listen to their version of the story.
b. Adoption of reflective listening during such interaction that is being fully present with the trainee officers and using reflective statements assuring that the team HR understand their feelings, thoughts, and needs have set the best course of action.
c. Being assertive in thoughts, feelings and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for the organization and respecting other trainee officers' feelings.
d. The interaction in such times use to begin with something positive that we have observed during their training stint. It was found that this has greatly helped to balance any negative or critical feelings and lower the defensiveness the recipient feels.
e. It was ensured to end the discussion with a positive note. The questions such as, "how could you have done better?" and "what do you think could use improving your performance" involves the trainees in building a shared plan. It was witnessed that meaningful interaction begets a better relationship among organizational members.