One of the reasons you'll hear me say, be kind to people, is because we only see through a small keyhole of what is happening within a person's life when we interact with others. Our lives are much more complex than we share at work. We hold some things back and it's perfectly natural as we like to keep a separation between what's work and what's personal information.
The same thing goes for everyone else with whom we interact. But everyone is going through something and sometimes they choose to share it with us. This episode is all about how to share deeply personal information and how to be ready to hear that same information that's being shared with you. This is the Practicing Leader Podcast.
I'm your host, Parul Bhargava, and let's discuss.
So let's go ahead and start off with how do you show up for someone who has shared personal information with you? One of the things we look at here is, listen to them about their needs. People react to crises in different ways. And when I say crises in this situation, it can be something that's personal, it could be something that is health related, it could be a life changing event, it could be anything.
So the term crisis in this context, it could be any number of things. How people react to crisis is different depending on what the level of support that they need. Every person will have different needs. That's just an obvious statement. Before jumping to ideas about how you would request help, be sure to ask them what they need in the moment.
This could be simply someone to listen to, looking for ideas for support, advice on how to tell other people, or anything else in between. Next, show that you're approachable. Everyone wants to feel acknowledged and comforted through tough times, but sometimes it can be challenging to figure out how to convey support in the appropriate way.
When you don't know what to say, something simple and heartfelt like, I'm sorry to hear about the loss of so and so, can be just what your coworker needs to hear. It's absolutely okay to let your colleague know you're there for them, and if they want to talk about what else is going on. However, what I'd be careful of is not barraging that individual with questions or insisting on details.
That we don't want to do next. If you're going to offer assistance offered in specific ways, you want to avoid vague statements of, let me know if there's anything I can do to help, or how can I help? These blanket sentiments place the weight on the struggling individual to make efforts to generate ideas for you.
And chances are the colleague may feel uncomfortable requesting specific help from their fellow co worker. Instead, a thing you could try is trying to be proactive and show you're willing to help in very specific ways. As an example, you could say something that's a little more concrete is I'm about to go out to lunch.
Can I pick up a meal for you? You know what? I'm going to go talk to so and so who you also work with. Do you want me to keep it, help and keep in touch with them and take care of some level of work for you on your behalf? These simple gestures like these can provide a huge amount of relief to your colleague by offering to be specific.
You now we're not overloading that individual with a task of thinking of ideas that they previously didn't have to think about before. Next one, active listening. While this might seem obvious, your ability to listen and to hear what the person is saying will put you to the taste. You may have an experience which is related to what is being described, or you might have an anecdote about something related.
Hold those to yourself and just listen. If you do it, don't beat yourself up about it, you know, just kind of move on, move on with it. Just remember to limit it as much as possible. It's a natural and normal human behavior to try to create rapport by sharing these stories. However, this conversation is happening because you don't need to build a report because the report already exists.
If the report didn't exist, they wouldn't be sharing this deeply personal information with you in the first place. Remember, it's about them and seeing what you can do for them. And finally, be clear about what you need to know. Make it clear to the person that's speaking and sharing this deeply personal information with you that you're 100 percent comfortable with whatever level of detail they want to share.
If more details will help, share away. If less details will help, that's also wonderful. This also may be an opportunity so you can set expectations that you won't necessarily ask them about this topic, but you always are there to listen. This helps to be able to establish some level of comfort with not being asked questions that they don't necessarily want to be asked.
And it helps them be able to provide information that they need to provide. My personal experience in 2020. I was diagnosed with cancer and ended up having to have three consecutive surgeries over the course of five months. One of the things which was difficult was the overwhelming feeling of are you okay?
What can I do to help? Or the proverbial walking on eggshells when the only thing I wanted was to be treated like I'd always been. Well, that's my experience. Setting this expectation about what kind of information you're looking for from somebody will help identify what kind of support they'll be looking for as well as what their interaction with you in the future will look like.
As a manager, what do you do to show up as a practicing leader for your employees? Let's go ahead and start jumping through these. The first one, follow up reasonably. They might seem obvious here, but let's say you were to email your employee over and over again asking about how things are going, where things are, what's the status of things could make the employee think twice about having shared the information with you if the issue is already stressful or has some sort of emotional elements to it.
Overdoing check-ins could increase the stress for that individual. Another approach may be to set expectations on deadlines and making sure that they're still reasonable. This gives you a chance to be able to figure out when is the next time a check in makes sense and are they confident that they're prepared to do a check in at that time.
This will demonstrate that you actually care about them and their situation and help them feel more valued as part of the process. Next, be consistent across all of your employees. This is where all your employees will watch how you interact with that individual and observe what you do. Over the course of your career, what you'll find is that you'll run into a range of different personal crises.
It could be a, the passing of a loved one. It could be a health issue. It could be a different life changing event, going and trying to purchase a home. It could be any number of things that could create or increase the amount of stress. Incognitive workload for an individual. It's worth remembering that other employees will observe you and expect that you will treat them the exact same way, should they run into similar difficulties, if you stray from consistency, what you'll find is that offering support will not necessarily have a positive effect that you're intending and actually take away from employee morale or retention.
Please keep in mind that every situation is unique. Each person will need a different level of support depending on their personal circumstances. So adjust accordingly. The supportive measures that might be helpful for one individual may not be helpful for somebody else. And the next one here is about making sure you have a contingency plan.
This goes back to our discussions about succession planning. Making sure you have a plan for what to do if the employee decides, I need to take a few weeks off. I need to decide to quit. I need to go do something different. These are all things that need to be kept in mind as you're looking at what is the work that needs to get done.
This is where you may want to have a conversation with the individual and say, Hey, if I was asked somebody to help with some of this work while you were out, who would you suggest this kind of gives them an opportunity to say, Hey, you know what, I've been working with so and so they have an idea about how this, some of this stuff works.
They'll have a great idea of what to do, and they should be able to help pretty quickly. And this is where it's important to be able to discuss what the timelines are, what followups are required and setting those expectations up front. It's not to say that you're looking to replace that individual, but the business must go on.
This is where working with the employee to be able to determine the next steps, including whether or not you want to do a more hybrid work, maybe work from home more time, maybe work half days, whatever the case might be, make sure that You're planning that stuff with the employee to make sure that they understand that this is being done in partnership with them, not something that's being hidden from them.
If it's being hidden from them, it could be perceived that they're looking to be replaced. And that's not the intent of this discussion. The next one, modeling healthy behaviors. We want to be able to say that we support everyone's mental health. But you know what? When it comes to our own, we don't necessarily take the time that's necessary.
A more proverbial. Do what I say, not what I do, and this is where it takes some time to be able to model the behavior correctly, and this may be a function of prioritizing self care, setting appropriate boundaries, taking time, whatever the case might be, making sure that you remind yourself to be able to do those things just as well.
More often than not, what ends up happening is a manager. We'll say, so focus on the team's well being that sometimes they will forget themselves and that doesn't help anybody is a lesson. I learned many, many years ago, but it's 1 of those things that I think is important to call out. Even if it might be like, you know what I've chosen to take a, take a walk in the middle of the day.
I'm taking some personal time. I'm going to my appointment. I'm going to go, go to my, see my doctor, whatever the case might be. Sharing that information with your, with your staff will allow them to see, Hey, wow, my manager cares about those, these things for themselves. Yeah. Maybe I can share that information too.
What you're looking to do is be able to make yourself more approachable by sharing information with your staff. One of the other things you'll probably also need to do is as people are going through these challenging times, making sure that other team members are appropriately aware that there is some patient that may be patients that may be required in discussions with the person that's having an issue.
And this is not to you share any information about it, you can simply keep it very, very vague and to the point of saying, I'm going to need you to be able to provide some more grace in how you're working with this individual. There's some stuff that's going on. You don't need to know about it, but this is where I'm going to be able to provide them a little bit more extended deadlines.
So accordingly, we need to adjust hours when you're modeling these behaviors, what's going to end up happening is. Your people will rely on you to be treated the exact same way during their unprecedented time. Making sure that you model these behaviors for them so that way they can see how you'll be treated as well as how you'll treat others is going to be important.
Next, build a culture of doing check ins regularly. Whether it be through one on ones or through just a quick stand up in the morning, take the time to do regular check ins. It is more critical now that where a good number of people are working from home or in a hybrid situation, Taking the time to see if somebody is struggling when they're on a video call versus being face to face in person will be difficult.
So this is where building the relationship with the individual over time and doing so and doing so when things are going well. We'll make it possible for you all to see if something is not going well, go beyond like the simple, Hey, how are you ask specific questions about what's going on and what kind of support that will be helpful and wait for the full answer and ask them as open ended questions when there's not a crisis going on, asking a generic open question and letting that answer come out will be okay because that individual is not in a place where having to think through ideas about what kind of help they might need may be a challenge or difficulty.
This is where it's really important to apply active listening and really listen and encourage questions and concerns. That way, you can try to get more information from the individual to see what kind of support they truly need. The outcome that you're looking for here is you're making a space to hear how your team members are truly doing and to be compassionate.
They might not necessarily want to share a bunch of details, and that's okay, but at the same time, You want to try to make the space so that way if they want to, that they can. What if you're the person that's sharing deeply personal information? You know, this is where you can apply both personally as well as to the workspace.
This is where I think the, this guidance I'll provide and share and just say, this is where you can look at this. One of the things that I have thought about is, well, how many people do I tell? My statement to that is, tell exactly the number of people that you want to tell. This is your news, this is your information, this is what is important to you.
Whatever number that you choose is the right number for you. There's no right or wrong answer here. You'll likely have an idea of who will be supportive and who won't be, and this is where you need to lean on. How do you get the support that you need in this time of difficulty? And make sure that you're telling exactly the number of people that will be supportive of you.
Next, setting expectations on how to get in touch. Not everyone likes to get a phone call. Not everyone likes to, to go through and talk on text. If you make it clear to people how you want to, how you want to be in touch with them, during that time where things are difficult, you're more likely to get what you need.
Like, do you prefer a call? Do you prefer text? Do you prefer video? Do you prefer, you know, do you prefer a messenger pigeon? While on, when under stress, talking to people on the phone may be something that may be tougher for you. Setting the expectation that text is preferred may lower your cognitive workload, and then be able to figure out, hey, this is how I like to communicate.
And setting this expectation with others will help you at least have a better chance of getting what you need. And keep in mind, again, that this is a completely personal preference. What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. And then lastly, how much information to share? This is a deeply personal decision.
You may have something that which is easy to share and you have no problem sharing all the details. For example, you're now taking care of a family member that you weren't worked before, or you could be going through some deeply personal health issue, which you may not necessarily want to share all the details about.
Share exactly the amount of information you want to share. However much you share is exactly the right information and exactly the right amount. Again, it's completely up to you about how much to share and don't feel bad about it. We've gone ahead and we've talked about what to do and what to do when someone shares information with you, what to do as a manager, as well as How do you share this kind of information?
This hopefully should set you up to be able to one, be supportive, but also be empathetic to somebody that requires support as well.