I recently read a very interesting article, a publication by John M. Gottman, whose extensive research on divorce prediction and marital stability span four decades. You might ask why I am bringing up the work of a marriage therapist and researcher to the workplace environment. It is pertinent to highlight the essence of this research to you as workplaces are all about relationships. As you are probably aware, most employees do not leave their job because of their employer/workplace but often because of their line manager (according to a Gallup research 75% of employees left their workplace voluntarily because of their boss).
It is crucial for employers and managers to keep a good and vibrant talent pool by creating a supportive work environment. What Gottman suggested for couples easily can be adapted in workplaces to create a space where people feel more appreciated. A good way to implement this concept is to introduce an Emotional Bank Account.
Do you remember the first day when you started your job? You were excited about your new role and everything felt right. Along the way, problems like conflict with coworkers, some failed projects, problems with your (or other people) performance, personal issues that have an impact on your work, etc., starts to arise. These can result in negative emotions like disappointment and frustration. Gottman suggested that in order to have a balance in a relationship, we need to start counting withdrawals and deposits. Every time we do something or not, every word or silence has symbolic value for the relationship. One reckless withdrawal can cancel many deposits so both parties should be focused on making small deposits every single day so they can be used in times of crisis. Ideally, both parties should try this approach. However, even if it’s just you who made the commitment to start by changing your behaviour, it is going to be a change for the better. It is definitely good to give it a go!
Here are different types of DEPOSITS to your ‘Emotional Bank Account’:
1. Make sure there is more positive than negative interactions - The 5:1 ratio
Conflicts at work are unavoidable so the way we manage them can be crucial for the future of our relationships. When we are right in the heat of crisis we are already in a negative state of mind and therefore additional negativity is also expected. By keeping the 5:1 ratio we make sure that you say or do five positive things to ‘cancel’ every negative thing. This doesn't mean that you need to be extensively agreeable or overly accommodating. Try though to turn towards the other person: listen to them, ask if they can tell you more, express your empathy and validate their perspective.
2. Building relationship based on friendship principles
Make sure you both appreciate each other. It is easy to get used to certain things that the other person is doing and you take them for granted. Maybe their reports are outstanding, they have to do attitude or cheer up others in challenging situations and you no longer notice that? Change it. Make sure that you express your gratitude for those behaviours. It can also be useful to go back to times when you were particularly impressed by something that the other person has done. It is especially useful to do so in times of conflict and crisis.
3. Keep cool in times of conflict
In times of conflict, we all have a tendency to bring on negative situations from the past. You feel hurt so you want to make sure that the other person feels it too. In situations like that, we sometimes use ‘horrible words’ which we can never take back and their destructive force can have a tremendous impact. What to do when you get to this point? Take a break. If you feel like the words that you want to use are getting out of control, stop the conversation and go back to it when you both cool down.
4. Perceiving the other person with empathy (that applies also to their weaknesses)
Therapists noticed that people in happy relationships feel like they are with someone who is imperfect to the same extent as themselves. In couples that are unhappy, both parties think the problem lies with the other person. The same concept can easily be applied in the workplace. Let’s face the fact - nobody is perfect. We make mistakes, forget things, not reach given targets and that’s ok. Try to communicate those omissions in a positive way that sounds very casual. Instead of blaming the other person, you can deflect to the positive aspect of the entire situation. For example: “Do you remember the annual report needs to be completed by 6 pm today? Btw I really liked your quick response to the regional manager”.
5. Acceptance of other person’s influence on us and their arguments
It is important to accept that we don’t always have to be right.
6. Acceptance of fundamental differences
You believe in one way of doing things and the other person believes in something totally different. It can be displayed in different areas of our lives - politics, lifestyle, etc. Sometimes you will not be able to reach a common ground so think about how to let go of things if you can’t change in any given situation.
7. Focus on positive resolution and ability to fix mistakes
It is a key to every relationship and also those professional ones because every relationship goes through tough times. We need to learn how to admit mistakes and forgive the other person.
I hope you found this blog post helpful because the way we work together is important on our general wellbeing. Making small adjustments can make a big difference in our everyday work.
Stay tuned to my next post. I will provide you with a list of ‘WITHDRAWALS from Emotional Bank Account’ so that you are clear on how to keep your Emotional Bank Account in a positive balance.