Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Encouraging male colleagues to reach out when they need extra support at work

It was back in the 1980s that The Cure sang about the fact that Boys Don’t Cry – men are conditioned from a young age not to display negative emotions. This can make it hard later in life for men to seek out the help and support they need, especially at work.

It’s a situation we’ve all been in – feeling the need to reach out for support, but not quite sure how to go about it, or how it will be viewed by colleagues, especially when we are well established in our careers and lots of other people look to us for support and guidance. However, the reluctance for male colleagues can be even more acute than for their female counterparts.

There are many reasons why this might be the case, not least the conditioning to bottle up emotions boys often face when they’re young. Male colleagues may be so out of tune with the emotional side of their make-up that they do not actually recognise that they need help. We, as colleagues, may notice changes in their behaviour and personality before they do.

The following signs are common in people who are struggling:

  • Becoming withdrawn – spending more time alone focused on their work
  • Losing interest in what’s going on around them
  • Not being as confident or outspoken as they have been previously
  • Missing deadlines or not being as productive as usual


What you can do

The mental health charity, MIND, feels here is some evidence that men are more likely to seek help if a friend or colleague encourages them to do so – especially if it’s a female partner or someone who offers advice in a professional capacity, e.g. occupational health. They theorise that the ‘interference’ of a third party helps to legitimise the issues they’re facing, which means male colleagues are more likely to then seek help.

So, the first thing we can do if we suspect a colleague may be struggling, is to let them know our concerns. If you don’t feel comfortable asking someone outright if there’s something wrong, start by showing an interest in them. Ask them for their opinions and build trust with them in the hope that they may open up to you voluntarily in the near future. At the very least, you’ll be paving the way for a more serious conversation about the support they may need later on.

Secondly, find out what support services are on offer within your organisation and share that information with your colleague. Sometimes, a well-placed flyer or telephone number could be enough to prompt your colleague into seeking the additional support they need. The thought that someone’s struggles are affecting their work – and that it has been noticed - could be enough for them to address whatever is bothering them.

For managers, or other people in a position of influence within your workplace, e.g. employee representatives, making suggestions to introduce practices that can help support the whole team not only helps the colleague you’re worried about, but also the rest of the workforce. These suggestions could include mindfulness practices, stress reduction and time management techniques; workplace counselling services; or occupational relaxation therapies, like massage and accupuncture.

If the above interventions don’t seem to help, it might be beneficial to speak to another colleague about your concerns. HR departments are trained to deal with matters that are impacting on people’s ability to do their job. You can ask to speak to someone in confidence and share your concerns.

For more information about stress reduction in the workplace, you can read our previous blog post Feel free to print it off and leave it around the office, if you think it will help others!

Friday, 2 June 2017

Ways to deal with difficult personalities

Our differences are what set us apart from each other – they add a vibrancy and a dynamic to the workplace that just would not be enjoyed, were we all the same. Diversity brings challenge and discussion that enables us to produce work that is thorough and rigorous.

However, this multiplicity may mean that there are one or two personalities within our work environment that we find difficult to work with. Rather than let this cause conflict, it’s better to have a plan – and be armed with the communication skills you need to deal with even the most trying of colleagues!

This article from Psychology today outlines ten top tips for dealing with difficult people in the workplace – it’s a great place to start in identifying what personality type you are dealing with. Here’s the list:

  1. Keep your cool 
  2. 'Fly like an eagle"
  3. Shift from being reactive to proactive 
  4. Pick your battles
  5. Separate the person from the issue 
  6. Put the spotlight on them 
  7. Use appropriate humour
  8. Change from following to leading 
  9. Confront bullies
  10. Set consequence 

It’s a good starting point, but when deciding which approach will work best for you, do bear in mind that there are two types of difficult conversation that you could find yourself facing. It helps to prepare an approach for each, beforehand!

Planned conversations

Knowing that you are going to encounter a difficult conversation can be daunting, but it does give you time to prepare. Make sure you have your facts straight beforehand – plan what you want to get across and how you are going to say it. Think carefully how you will respond to questions, accusations or challenges. 

Unplanned conversations

Being ‘cornered’ on the spur of the moment can automatically put us on the defensive, which means we deal with matters emotionally, rather than rationally. Try and reflect on how you react in such circumstances before they arise and put some steps in place that will prepare you, such as mindfulness techniques or a ‘holding’ response that will help you communication rationally if you’re ever put on the spot.

Be self-aware…


With a little bit of self-awareness and a willingness to develop your own communication skills, it is possible to be able to navigate interactions with difficult people. The following qualities are invaluable when communicating with others:

Assertiveness

We’re not talking about being bossy or bullish – assertiveness is about putting your point of view across clearly and with passion. Our assertiveness webpage gives you some tips on how to develop your own assertiveness.

Empathy

Empathy is a willingness to see things from another’s’ perspective, an appreciation of how you would feel were roles reversed. Read more about the habits of empathic people >

Negotiation

Aiming for a win-win outcome really helps when developing relationships at work. Creating an outcome where everyone can benefit is a powerful leadership tool. Read more >

Verbal / Non-Verbal Language

How you communicate with others is about so much more than the words you use – it’s about your non-verbal cues as well. This previous blog outlines some counselling skills that will help you connect with others.

Keep calm and carry on…

Difficult conversations and interactions with others can escalate quickly. Here are some tips to help you stay calm and in the moment >


Dealing with difficult people is not something that people relish, however with planning and preparation it needn’t detract from the job you have to do – or indeed impact on your working relationships.