Have you ever noticed that it's easy to hear devastating news about someone and then think "That's too bad. I wonder what's for lunch?" Unless you are the someone in distress, your brain can have a hard time feeling empathetic, meaning to put yourself in someone else's shoes.
The same thing happens at work. Picture the last time an employee complained about something that was of zero consequence to you. Perhaps the person even got emotional while you were wondering “What is this even about?”
It can be difficult for managers to muster sympathy for someone else. But, part of being a “good” people manager is to be able to offer words of compassion and defer your opinions for another time.
If you are apathetic to your employee in their time of need, your lack of sympathy can be misinterpreted as disdain, judgement or disrespect. Employees could feel it’s not safe to be honest with you unless you share their feelings. At worst, you could earn a reputation of being unsupportive no matter how many team-building activities you might organize.
The test of a “good” manager is how they handle the tough conversations. Here are three pre-written compassionate responses to help you get through those unforeseen emotional discussions. Do your staff a favour - learn them and use them.
- Thank you for telling me that. It must not have been easy for you to express those feelings.
- Let me sit with what you have told me. I want to get back to you with a thoughtful response. Let's pick a time to meet again. How is....
- I’m sorry you feel that way that must not be easy for you. Let’s talk about what you (or we) can do to prevent this in the future.