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How to Respond When Current Events Feel Like the Elephant in the Room

How to Respond When Current Events Feel Like the Elephant in the Room

An old adage suggests you should “leave your emotions at the door” when you arrive at work everyday. This is not only detrimental to you and your organization, it prevents you and your team members from connecting with each other as human beings. 

Current events like the war in Ukraine and ongoing challenges stemming from the Covid-19 Pandemic can feel like the elephant in the room that everyone is experiencing but no one is talking about. It is unrealistic and creates an environment of fear and distrust to suggest team members disconnect from feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress caused by these events. We encourage you to engage with your team members in a way that allows them to show up authentically at work by addressing their personal and emotional needs as they arise. 

You can leverage a number of our Forum protocols outside of your Forum meeting to create a meaningful space for your team members to share their experiences. Once you identify the challenges they are facing, you can be more empathetic and proactive in tailoring your approach to managing and supporting them.

  1. Lead By Example: If you suspect your team members are struggling with current events or personal challenges, demonstrate your willingness to “go there” by sharing your own personal experiences or how you are feeling. As a manager or leader, sharing that you have been sad, distracted, or otherwise negatively impacted by something will signal to your team that it is okay and perfectly normal to be experiencing similar feelings
  1. Ask Open Ended Questions and Actively Listen to Their Answers: Lead with questions and practice “Zone 3 Listening” to signal that you care about the individual you're talking to and are truly listening to understand how they feel. Questions like, “How are you doing, the good and bad?” “What challenges are you facing right now at work or at home?” “What is on your mind?” create space for your team member to share more than what is going on at work 
  1. Offer Experiences, Not Advice: If someone shares a personal challenge, resist the urge to try and solve the problem or give them assurance that it will be ok. Instead, validate their feelings and share any similar experiences you’ve had and how it made you feel. This will help build connection and increase the likelihood your team member may share similar experiences with you in the future

Next time you suspect a team member or colleague is struggling, try using one of our quick tips above to address the elephant in the room. You will boost your team’s engagement and overall wellbeing by creating trust and safety for them to share their challenges with you even when you can’t offer a perfect solution.