The key to thriving during adversity and change

In the Financial Mail dated October 2020 the article “Burnout is now an occupational phenomenon”, and the impact of the Corona Virus and other aligned changes which bears down on employee psychological well-being is clearly outlined by Du Toit, Dr. Renata Schoeman and Thapelo Mahlangu.  “Employee retention, presentism, burn-outs, mental wellness and chronic deceases are the greatest challenges that businesses face throughout the world.  This is caused by radical shifts in the labour market and the relentless pressure placed on individuals to out-perform their intrinsic incapabilities.” (Richard Sutton – Stress Proof 2021)

During 2020 Competence Lab have noted noticeable increases in levels of stress, insecurity, impulsivity, aggression and depression in our assessments of leaders compared with measures of these emotional traits in the previous 3 years. The COVID-19 pandemic and other changes on the economic and political front has created a working from home pandemic. In certain instances, this has driven performance, but negative impacts on individual, team and organizational performance levels, has been evident.

Challenges encountered by employees and leaders ranged from feeling isolated, having to face the technological changes and communicating and surviving in a virtual world. Other challenges were a lack of boundaries between work life and private life. This has contributed to increases in stress, insecurity, aggression and depression. Furthermore, many also wanted to prove that they were productive and were pushing longer hours. Organizations were not necessarily sensitive to these dilemmas. Employees driven by insecurity and high stress indicated as Thapelo Mahlangu states that “they felt that they were working harder but were achieving less”.

The emotional turbulence experienced by employees was not acknowledged by leadership. The styles of leaders and how they behaved was reflected in Surveys conducted by Competence Lab:

  • Feelings of isolation and not being engaged.

  • Focus on results and not on well-being and development/coaching.

  • Discussions focussing on work related issues and ignoring concerns, ideals and common challenges experienced by all.
  • Leadership indecision on issues of critical importance.

  • Impulsive decision making not considering impact of decisions on employee wellness, motivation and morale.

  • Tactless and aggressive behaviour by leaders reinforcing insecurity, stress and feelings of depression.

  • Feelings of isolation and not being engaged.

  • Lack of transparent two-way communication increasing feelings of isolation, inner stress and insecurity.

  • Emphasis during virtual communication on individual and not enough team interaction, contact and idea sharing.

  • A lack of clarity created by leaders on an Inspiring Future Dream all could aspire to.

The actions that we have implemented through individual and leadership initiatives which have brought about positive shifts in current negative emotional states of leaders and their employees were as follows:

  • Competence Lab provides employees with skills to utilize our Emotional / Performance regulation toolkits to daily regulate and manage their emotions. This enables them to define boundaries for themselves in respect of work / life balance during the day. They are guided when to take breaks, destress and expose themselves to different forms of stimulation to maintain a positive and energizing environmental outlook to retain high levels of performance.

  • The individual Emotional Wellness profile of each individual is assessed prior to this intervention to ensure individual emotional needs are properly addressed during this intervention.
  • Leaders in the organization are also exposed to these skills to enhance their own emotional self-awareness as well as the emotions of their direct reports and teams. They are provided with Emotional diagnostic skills to determine key emotional issues impacting on the capacity of their direct reports to apply thinking skills, action skills, to focus and plan for execution and to relate in an open and constructive manner. They are furthermore equipped with specific skills to enhance emotional engagement during virtual interactions with individuals and teams. “This principle is supported by Richard Sutton 2021” “Creating links and drawing connections between various stresses, emotional states and health outcomes is extremely helpful in managing stress and negative associations. This is hugely relevant in business and leaders and managers need to pay more attention to these associations.”

  • In conclusion, the key driver for performance behaviour of people in our organization are their values and emotions. The impact of these are rarely considered at an individual level for employees and leaders, prior to soft and hard skills development. The maintenance of a high-performance culture can only be achieved in organizations when leaders and employees have an understanding of their own emotions and values and those of others and how this would impact on Employee, Leadership, Team Behaviour and Performance.

The Key to Our Model is as Follows:

Key to the successful implementation of this module is first to create through assessment individual awareness of current emotional gaps and ensuring leaders provide support, dealing with each employee according to their needs. A generic approach to development is no longer the answer to manage emotions and to sustain performance growth in a more complex world of work where change is constant and never ending.

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