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    Redefining Resilience: How Managers Can Proactively Tackle Workplace Challenges

    The literature often uses the word “loyal” when describing valued employees. I want employees to work hard, show respect, and give their best for our organization, but to me, as a supervisor, loyalty seems a little strong, like “blind allegiance.” Can you clarify this term?

    Loyalty implies that your employee exhibits a strong sense of commitment, trust, or allegiance to their employer and to you as their supervisor. Disloyal employees typically experience more disagreements with their supervisor, perceive a lack of support or fairness in the workplace, and show strained communication with their supervisor. Like someone tending a garden, supervisors must constantly be on the move- noticing, encouraging, coaching, and addressing conflicts and concerns. Doing so helps produce loyal workers. Your employees will feel a sense of loyalty if you remain transparent and open with information, offer support and recognition, set a positive example in your work style that they can follow, resolve conflicts, listen, give them feedback, and show a genuine interest in their lives. Demonstrated disloyalty is often the sign of an unhappy employee. Consult with the EAP to either help the employee or analyze what more you can do to improve your supervision style to nurture your needed loyalty.

    A tragic incident occurred at work, and I felt caught off guard because employees immediately looked to me for direction and leadership. Frankly, I was at a loss to know where to begin. I felt I let folks down. How can supervisors improve their ability to respond to a crisis?

    Take proactive steps to build your crisis management know-how. Speak to your HR advisor. Consult with the EAP. Discover any existing crisis or incident protocols, including support from the EAP. Be well-versed in these emergency response procedures (evacuation, shelter-in-place protocols, and first aid). Schedule a periodic review of procedures. As a rule, be calm and demonstrate resilience in a crisis. Immediately establish regular communication channels, like group meetings, emails, or instant messages, to keep everyone updated. Don’t become dictatorial in a crisis; rely on an assembled team's experience and common sense to help address issues. Prioritize the post-incident well-being of your team and reinforce use of the EAP for those who feel the need. Remember, no one can anticipate every possible tragedy or disruption, but taking proactive steps can prepare you to face them better.

    I think my employees have good stress management skills. I don’t detect any signs or symptoms of excessive workloads. If they don’t speak up, it is safe to say that work distribution is about right. Correct?

    There are reasons an employee might not choose to complain about their workload. However, engaging with employees, asking questions, and listening carefully will help you discover those workers who are in distress. An employee might worry that expressing concerns about the workload could lead to negative consequences, such as being seen as incapable of handling the work. Pressure to conform to this perceived norm and avoid standing out might keep them mum. Also, a strong desire to please the supervisor or maintain a positive image within the team could explain not speaking up. Job security concerns are another issue if the employee believes complaining would make him or her appear expendable. Another reason to engage with workers is to spot performance issues related to problems like depression, stress, anxiety, and conflict. These can be “masked,” which means you don’t see the symptoms.

    What are some tips for building workplace relationships with employees to understand their needs and strengths and detect issues and problems (even personal problems) earlier?

    There are many ways to get to know your employees. 1) Make it OK for employees to meet you for conversations and establish safe spaces so they can share with you privately what’s important about their work. 2) A few times a year, schedule regular meetings for a few minutes one-on-one to discuss workload and challenges. 3) Do not just discuss work tasks. Show real concern for their well-being by expressing interest in their work life and happiness on the job. 4) Share and disclose some of your own work struggles in your career history so employees see the “real you.” This will make you relatable, which is a powerful relationship-building dynamic that builds loyalty. 5) Understand and learn employees’ perspectives quicker than make immediate judgment calls about their work, ideas, and problems. 6) Offer feedback and praise. This will cause them to speak up sooner about challenges before they become larger problems.

    Is there a way to be supportive yet confrontational with my supervisor in an effort to get him coaching help for communication and style issues affecting me and my supervisor's peers? Everyone would be happier and less stressed if he used the EAP for this assistance.

    Being assertive with your supervisor requires a few preparatory steps, and you should consider role-playing the following with the EAP. Be sure to choose a private, respectful, and confidential tone when you meet with your boss. Talk about yourself first. Express your commitment to the team’s success and that you want to address a concern affecting the work environment. Then, share very specific behaviors/actions that are causing distress. Be sure the examples are “observable” or “date-specific” behaviors. State the impact on the team or your workgroup. Avoid “you” statements that can be perceived as blaming or shaming. Next, express concern for your boss’s well-being, such as, “It seems there’s been a lot of pressure on you lately.” Connect this to asking whether you or the team can do something to alleviate stress or take pressure off somehow. Consult with the EAP to improve the work situation and help the team. Listen to his response. Your boss may decide to seek assistance but never let you know it. Remember that the EAP even offers specialized one-to-one coaching services for managers to help them improve their communication and people skills.

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