You don’t have to be the expert to support colleagues through difficult times

It’s a fact of life that everyone faces struggles, challenges and hardships. At any time, multiple people in your life will be going through a hard situation. Awful to think about, isn’t it?

When it’s someone we’re close to that’s going through a difficult time we will support them in any way we can, but when it’s a colleague or employee it can be harder to know how to while still respecting professional boundaries. 

Why It’s Important to Know How To Support Colleagues Through Personal Hardships

We all know that it’s impossible to leave your personal life and emotions at the door when you come to work. Regardless of how much you may wish that you could! Situations such as bereavements, illness, menopause, andropause, miscarriage, relationship break downs and financial troubles can be all encompassing and interfere with all aspects of your life. 

This means that it’s important to have understanding and support in place at work for anyone going through a challenging time. Whilst formal support systems, such as counselling, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) resources and personal leave policies, go a long way towards this, it’s the everyday relationships with their colleagues that can make the biggest difference to how the individual feels. 

Employers should aim to create a workplace environment where people feel they can ask for support and will be supported when they do so, regardless of whether it is a professional or personal issue. At Maze, we believe that an organisation has achieved inclusion when their employees feel empowered to bring their “whole-self” to work. 

There are benefits reaped from this impact not only for the individual employees, but also for the company. In 2021, The Myers-Briggs Company found that positive and supportive relationships with co-workers are important for workplace well-being and numerous research studies have shown that employees perform better when their staff are healthy, motivated and feel appreciated. In turn, evidence shows this can lead to lower turnover, increased productivity, improved morale. 

How To Support Colleagues Through Difficult Times

It’s commonly misconstrued that you need to have special skills, knowledge or shared experiences to be able to support someone through personal challenges or hardship, but that’s not the case. 

All that is needed is a sense of empathy, some common sense, being able to listen well, and to be approachable. All things you use to varying degrees in the workplace on a daily basis. You don’t need to be a counsellor or a well-being expert, you just need to take the time to engage with people. 

Research has shown that, at work, it’s the relationship employees have with their manager that has the biggest effect on their well-being, so it’s important to be mindful of this when in a leadership role. 

There are a number of things we suggest in our ‘Create An Inclusive and Supportive Workplace’ course that can help you with this. These include:

Regular Check-Ins

Schedule regular check-ins with all of your team to talk to them about their well-being as well as their work, so you can maintain an idea of how they are doing personally, and build a trusting relationship where they know they can talk to you. This also shows them that you value them and care about their well-being.

Don’t inherit their difficulties

Asking about your colleagues’ well-being and providing them with them support, does not mean taking their problems on as your own. Listen supportively, encourage them to explore the issues and then gently help them to find a solution, other people, or relevant organisations that can address their situation. 

It is not your responsibility to fix anything for them!

Prioritise progress and celebrate achievements

Progress is not the same as success but in many ways it’s more important for well-being. Small setbacks can have an extremely negative effect on someone who is going through a hard time and, conversely, even small wins can have a tremendously positive impact. But only if they are recognised.

Various theories focus on how doing things that give you a sense of accomplishment can provide you with a boost to your overall well-being. Help your colleagues recognise and celebrate their achievements so that they can get this boost, particularly when they are feeling down. 

To discover the other tactics we encourage in ‘Create An Inclusive and Supportive Workplace’, so that you can work towards creating a truly inclusive environment, get in touch today.

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