23 Jan EMPATHY AND AUTONOMY – IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU
Hard to believe that we are already almost one month into 2022. I am having a hard time distinguishing between 2020, 2021 and frankly, this year too! It seems like one very long side step from reality, and at the same time, things have never felt more real personally and professionally.
I’m tired. Are you? Change fatigue, burnout and a deep feeling of being disconnected at work are just some of the symptoms that individuals and teams experience as the pandemic continues.
I’ve seen how they impact teams internally and externally. Delayed employee development and succession, and increased attrition are some of the ways they impact employees. They also negatively affect organizations’ ability to hire, on-board and retain new employees effectively. It’s hard to stay competitive as an organization when it feels like there’s very little gas in the tank to keep things going.
What can you do to replenish your cup at work when you don’t feel like you have it to give? If you are a leader or a team member there are two (2) things that you need to focus on right now and going forward in 2022 – empathy and autonomy.
At the moment, the feeling of being worn out feels unavoidable. Things are changing so rapidly and there is do much information to process, it’s hard to stay connected, much less enthusiastic. If you are leading a team, it’s important to express empathy and understanding now, and going forward.
“Acknowledge that engaging at an individual level with employees is important work and not an added or short term responsibility.” (How to Help Employees Overcome Change Fatigue, Smith, 2021)
Equally as important is empathy directed inwardly or self-compassion. It’s ok to not show up perfectly for everyone else every day. Self-compassion is recognizing your own experience and that you too have a cup, and that it can feel empty from time to time. Assess your level of self-compassion by pausing for a moment. Ask yourself the following questions without judgement:
- What do I need right now?
- What’s holding me back right now?
- What am I grateful for right now?
- What’s one thing that would make me smile right now?
What are your answers? What might be your team members’ answers to these questions? Empathy whether it is directed inwardly to yourself and outwardly to others isn’t a nice to have or after-thought. It’s an important way to build and maintain individual relationships and resilience for yourself and those you work with.
Self-compassion can also mean creating boundaries for yourself, and enabling your team to do the same. There is a lot of ongoing research about working from home, hybrid working and the positive and negative effects on workers.
Our ability to create and sustain autonomy in our work is a key to creating healthy boundaries and productivity when we are on our own working at home. According to Amy Arnsten, Ph.D. professor of neuroscience and psychology at Yale University:
“…when people feel like they have a choice in the way they carry out their work, studies show they’re more engaged, committed, and productive.”
Freedom to make small choices can make a big difference for you and those you work with. examples include:
- when the work day begins and ends
- when meetings are scheduled and meeting-free times blocked to complete tasks
- creating a comfortable space to work from
Finding small ways to create autonomy creates a sense of control. Sharing empathy towards others and having compassion for your own experiences will help you stay connected and build your resilience.