how do we cultivate our ability to effectively manage feelings and relationships when we are cut off from many of the sensory clues that indicate what our colleagues and clients are really thinking?
A few suggestions include:
Constantly remind yourself that this work environment is different from what we’re all used to. Take a step back and evaluate. How am I feeling at this moment? Under what circumstances do I tend to react in ways I might regret later? Which emotions and impulses do I need to control?
Listen first. Before you launch into a conversation or make a judgment, make a conscious effort to listen carefully to the person you’re talking to. If you’re on the phone, take a moment to assess the tone and demeanor of the person you’re speaking with. What is their mood? Is there an underlying issue they may be reluctant to address directly? Active listening conveys empathy and instills trust.
Communicate deliberately and carefully:
Without face-to-face interactions, your actual words are more important than ever. How will others interpret your words, and how are they likely to react? Your messages must convey sensitivity, self-control, a positive outlook and an adaptable, creative mindset. If you end up having to downsize staff to keep your business afloat, carefully consider the ripple effects on your clients, the staff you will be keeping and the reputation of your organization. Can you communicate your decision in a way that shows empathy and your core values? Can you do it in a way in which even departing employees can retain positive feelings for the company?
Remain visible and approachable:
This is especially important if you are in a leadership role. As you weigh whether or not to have employees return to the workplace or extend your remote working scenarios, EI will become particularly important to navigate the emotional sensitivities of your workforce. In a remote work environment, it’s too easy to shut down and hole in. Remember, you are part of a much larger picture. You have a whiteboard no one can see. Make it clear to colleagues and clients you are there for them and eager to be a resource, and encourage them to do the same.
It takes a conscious and persistent effort to cultivate EI in the midst of an extended crisis. Without the usual physical interactions and sensory clues, managing our feelings and relationships in the workplace is less intuitive and more challenging, but it is more important now than ever — especially to future-proof your business.