As human beings, we are made up of emotions which almost drive everything in our lives. As a matter of fact our limbic brains generate responses to different situations in life and a number of times, decisions or reactions are made there already before reaching our rationale brain. A number of attitudes of human beings are made up of past experiences and the circuits in the brain are formulated and connected accordingly. These experiences are a collection of mixed negative or unprocessed emotions acquired over the years. A number of emotions have still an impact on the present situations and context human beings live in their daily lives. As a child for e.g., there are situations when negative feedback and criticism is provided by family members or teachers which adds to anxiety, stress and low self-esteem and confidence. It also develops a strong feeling of guilt which remains with the child during his teenage and adulthood. When it comes to the organization and employees, a number of emotions and experiences can be observed which may add to emotional baggage on a daily basis. Employees grappling with managing work life balance, higher or uneven workloads, friction with supervisors and colleagues, misunderstandings, mid-career level challenges or uncertainities etc. Leader’s or supervisor’s high expectations, cut throat competition, low or lack of trust, absence of due acknowledgement etc. generate emotions and feelings which are consumed every day and have an impact not only on minds but bodies. These feelings, if negative, eat up a lot of energy and generates anxiety, worry, and insecurity, lack of motivation, fear and above all negative assumptions. These negative assumptions then have a huge impact on personal productivity and efficiency as well as relationships amongst the teams and organizations. Living in a fast paced digitally connected world bombarded with social media messages has also given rise to stress, anxiety and depression. This also does not leave enough time for employees to slow down and check in the emotional state on a continuous basis.
Our physiological composition is as such that we are 95 percent body and 5 percent brain. Whatever happens in the brain has a direct impact on our bodies and negative emotions or emotional baggage weakens our immune systems and contribute to added stress and depression.
Yes there are organizations, which provide one-off initiatives including indoor gyms, spas, outdoor gathering, birthday celebrations, annual dinners, training and development opportunities, however, the provision of spaces to address emotions and feelings as soon as they emerge and not waiting for them to form or move towards negativity download spiral are required. There are a number of programs offered by training and development organizations for leaders and employees of the organizations on emotional intelligence. However, these are mostly one off efforts and post workshop interventions are required to check-in the emotional baggage and introduce institutional avenues which can help release these negative emotions in a safe environment. Apparently, there is no concrete report or data which informs about the impact of all these initiatives on overall happiness and well-being of the employee.
Usually resiliency and managing emotions with maturity is expected out of employees directly and organizations mostly assume that employee him or herself will take care of them, which, however, may not be the case. It is important to understand that the overall emotional, mental, physical, psycho-social well-being of employees has an impact on performance.
So the question is: within the organizations, leaders, teams and individuals who should be responsible to take care of emotional baggage or it’s solely the responsibility of employee to manage this? In my opinion, it is both the responsibility of the organization, leaders and employees to put effort, time and programs into place which could reduce the emotional baggage. The organizations should be responsible for overall personal, psychological, physical, spiritual and emotional well-being of the employee. Each person’s baggage is different and of differing intensities. Therefore, being cognizant of it and creating diverse set of options may lead towards achieving this endeavor.
Two years ago, I was exposed to a meditation retreat experience in which I practiced a number of tools for healing, self-reflection and emotional cleansing. This led me to think about how institutions, organizations and leaders create an enabling environment to facilitate employees understand and examine their emotional baggage and use ways to cater them. Mentioned below are some suggestions and recommendations.
Introducing Listening Buddies
Employees could be nominated for actively listening the grievances (may be in personal or professional) experiences and provide an opportunity to reflect about feelings and emotions and how those could be turned into an opportunity or looking at the positive side of things. There are a number of grievances employees have for organizations or their leaders. A neutral person or a team of persons could be designated as check-in buddies, who could ensure that all feelings and emotions are checked-in and alternatives are provided to the employees. Providing a safe environment where employee can express him or her openly without any threat or fear is a key to introduce this within an organization. Empathy not sympathy is the key take away of this intervention.
Departmental Meetings with check-ins
Meetings organized by leaders should be started/initiated with check-in questions. These check-ins should be done by ensuring that agreements of confidentiality and trusts are made and followed and implemented by each team member.
Genuine appreciation reduces the emotional burden and stress and generates a lot of positivity and positive energies. Appreciation circles could be structured once in three months or can be made a part of monthly staff meetings. Another way is to introduce envelopes with names on employees hanged within each department, and encouraging colleagues and leaders to put a note whenever they have observed any positive action or gesture of kindness or a set of skills which have contributed to the achievement of goals and outcomes or have contributed to building positive relationships within the department or organization. These envelopes can be handed over to employees every quarter with a small token of appreciation or memento.
Organizing Meditation Retreats
Meditation retreats prove to be one of the powerful ways of self-reflection and emotional healing. The retreats could be organized outside of the office environment into a peaceful and calm place, closest to the nature and promote well-being through them. These retreats also provide an opportunity to slow down and create space and time for self-reflection and healing.
Positive Psychology and coaching
During past few decades positive psychology and coaching has been introduced as one of the key factors contributing to individual and organizational change and development. Positive Psychology institute defines it as “the scientific study of human flourishing, and an applied approach to optimal functioning. It has also been defined as the study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities and organizations to thrive.” It is considered to be an important subject of study in the organizational behavior. Leaders within the organization could be trained and equipped with everyday tools of putting positive psychology in practice for themselves as well as their team members. One of the key elements of positive psychology is the recognition of importance of forgiveness including self-forgiveness. This could be made a part and parcel of day to day experiences. Similarly practicing self-compassion and gratitude on a periodic basis is another significant option to drive positive emotions within individuals and organizations.
Encouraging employees and leaders for doing community service
In our cultures and being a human, we have a full tendency and spirit available for helping others grow and empower, especially the ones who are disadvantage. Helping employees and leaders to move out of their silos and engage in community service may add value to their personal, emotional and social life as well as develop a sense of empathy and care towards each other.
One of the key outcome of these initiatives would be genuine relationship and trust building along with positive energy spirals within all the sections of the organizations. Similarly it may facilitate in raising the overall happiness index of the organization.
Simon Sinek one of the leading motivational speaker, author and a marketing consultant has been sharing in his presentations and books about the need and importance of cultivating a circle of safety at the workplace. In his book Leaders Eat Last he has shared an important insight and I quote “when the environment at work is one of encouragement, and one that meets basic human need to live, to learn, to feel valued and significant, we do more than just survive – we thrive”. So, are you as a leader and your organization ready to help employees thrive? Welcome Forward…