Leaders, Managers, and Emotional Support in the Workplace
With life’s ups and downs we sometimes have emotional issues that affect us at work. The stress or upsetting situation may come from the workplace – a difficult co-worker, too much to do and not enough time to do it. Or the stress or upsetting condition may come from our personal lives – a death of a loved one, a divorce or marital issues, and such. We may find emotional support in our friends – at home or work. If an issue affects or potentially affects our productivity or job performance, a manager may take notice, may try to help, provide emotional support.
Managers providing emotional support to others in the workplace was the subject of a study reported earlier this year in the Academy of Management Journal. Researchers at the International Institute for Management Development, Lausanne, Switzerland, and University College London studied a firm of over 60 people. The firm operated in an open floor plan where others were easily observed.
Here’s what they found. Some managers offered support by listening or perhaps giving advice. These managers supported but did not interact extensively. Other managers did -- not only listening and advising, but helping the employee reframe, rethink, see the issue from a different perspective, sometimes helping to formulate a positive perspective.
Why did the managers provide support? For some it was instrumental, something that needs to be done to maintain workplace productivity and prevent decreased morale. For others it was more from a sense of who they were, perhaps those who viewed themselves more as compassionate leaders.
Regardless of motivation, managers saw this as outside their role as a manager. Consequently they usually thought their emotional support would be reciprocated through more workplace commitment or acknowledgement. On the other hand, the employee being helped saw it as just part of the manager’s role, what managers are expected to do.
Managers who helped and employees who were helped had very different expectations. Employees appreciated the help and saw managers who gave it as better leaders. But managers who gave help and did not receive anything in return were often disappointed.
(Indebted to various sources)