Empathy.

I have a colleague that made a big mistake.  Because of our roles and responsibilities within the company, I had to pick up the pieces of his fall-out.  And I. was. pissed. about it. 😤 His poor judgment caused me additional stress and hours more of work.  I made damn sure he knew all that I had to do to cover his ass.  If I had to swoop in and rescue him, he was going to learn a lesson out of it.

Now, he’s normally pretty up-to-snuff.  After the dust settled a bit, I asked him how he was doing.  Turns out, he took his mistake pretty hard.  He felt terrible about it, guilty, and embarrassed.  Additionally, he was going through a lot in his personal life.  As we had this conversation, I started to feel like an asshole for coming down on him so hard.  

Emotions dictate our connections with one another, so why do we feel we need to hide them?  

What people do at home feeds back on professional performance and vice versa.  We shouldn’t pretend that it doesn’t.

Paul Zak, Trust Factor

The Cleveland Clinic started a program called Code Lavender. 💜 When a physician or nurse is facing high-stress or burnout (due to a difficult patient or death), they wear a lavender bracelet.  The bracelet alerts their colleagues that they are emotionally fragile and to treat them with care.  This is similar to the emotion chart that I’ve seen on the internet that teachers do with their students.  Based on how the child is feeling, the teacher welcomes them into the classroom with a fist bump, a high-five, a hug – or whatever.  

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what people are feeling and base our interactions with them knowing this information prior to engagement?  

I want us to individually be successful, so we can collectively be successful.  Had I of known the burden my colleague was carrying that led to his error in judgement, I would have approached the situation more empathetically.  Had he of expressed the burden he was carrying prior; he could have leaned on me for additional support.  That is caring.  That is a relationship.  That is teamwork.

I 💯 believe in setting expectations upfront.  I like to be well-equipped with pertinent information, so that I can bring the most value possible.  If I ask you to take water samples for me, I’m going to provide you with all the information necessary to perform the task.  Why wouldn’t we supply someone with the emotional information necessary to build the relationship?  It doesn’t even matter if that relationship is personal or professional.  All professional relationships are personal to some extent.

Emotions are a valuable information flow that leaders ignore at their peril.

Paul Zak, Trust Factor

Oftentimes, mistakes get made when we are emotionally challenged.  We are distracted by what we feel that we lose focus on tasks at hand.  This is natural human behavior.  Even those who are able to separate logic from emotion are affected to some degree. Neither is for better or worse, depending on how you look at it.

Empathy is understanding how someone feels.  Compassion is relieving some of the burden.  And more often than not, relieving some of the burden is just providing an ear to listen.

Though we have work-related communication almost daily, I’ve since made a more conscious effort to talk to this colleague about life in general more regularly.  Having a better understanding of who he is outside of work helps builds a better relationship inside of work.  

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