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Compassionate Leadership in Times of Corona: Receiving Empathetically

Priyanka Sharma

- October 19, 2020

You are responsible for managing 10 people in your team. Since everyone is working from home you have noticed that one employee Mina is consistently missing deadlines. She has already asked for extension on two projects that have reduced good will with the customer considerably. You want to know how best to deal with Mina so that the team performance does not get affected. You also realise that the Corona situation has brought on added challenges. Does this situation sound familiar to you?

A big part of compassionate leadership is listening emphatically. Listening is an undervalued skill especially amongst leaders.  This can be very harmful to business and employee engagement. Managers who love to speak more than listen are often losing valuable opportunities to connect with their employees in meaningful ways and solve problems in a manner that meets everyone’s needs. In a study conducted by American Management Association, it was found that 59% of the people surveyed did not feel that they were listened to and that management did not care about their concerns. This is an extremely troubling statistic. Especially in these times where the Corona pandemic has placed added stress on our psychological resources to deal with stress. 

Another study conducted by Gallup shows that employees are more engaged when they feel cared for and listened to. As managers we understand how important this is. However, the pressures of conducting business in a competitive environment means that you also have to ensure employees perform and meet deadlines. 

Being an empathetic listener does not mean that you agree with everything everyone is saying. Empathetic listeners are primarily listening to understand. Often, we listen only to come up with a retort, or we are not listening at all, because we are lost in our own inner world. Often people speak in ways that we find hurtful like criticism and we find it hard to stay present to that. Like any other skill, listening is an art that needs to be polished and worked on. 

In this article we will introduce you to Non-Violent Communication, a way of communicating from the heart, that will allow you to become a better listener. This way of communicating from the heart is called non-violent or compassionate communication. It was taught by Marshall Rosenberg, whose goal was to teach people to communicate in a manner that helps them to get their needs met , while keeping their connection with other people alive.

4 Steps to listening or receiving empathetically with Non-Violent Communication 

Let us get back to the situation with Mina. Contemplate on that situation for a bit. Maybe you have a Mina that you need to manage in your organisation. Think about a recent interaction you had with this employee.

Step 1 -Observation: Simply observe from an objective viewpoint what happened in that interaction. What did Mina say and do? What did you say and do? Do not use any evaluations or judgements here.

Example:  Mina told me that she would need a week’s extension on the deadline because her child was sick. This is way past the deadline the customer had given us. I told Mina that she could have the extension. 

Step 2 -Feelings:  In this step we try to guess the other person’s feelings, by imagining ourselves in the same situation or by listening carefully to their words and actions and looking for the feelings that they might be expressing. In NVC the definition of feelings is slightly different from our normal understanding of feelings. In order to understand feelings you can refer to the list of feelings here. Feelings which we would normally use that point at blame towards others are not considered feelings in NVC. An example of this would be “I feel abandoned”.  Expressing feelings in this manner is not encouraged in NVC because, this makes us point fingers at someone. Refer to the feelings inventory and identify what feelings might Mina be feeling as a result of this interaction. Most positive feelings such as proud, thankful, warm, delighted are usually the result of needs that are being met. When our needs are not met, we have feelings such as agony, furious, depressed etc.

Example: Mina might be feeling overwhelmed and tired. She might be feeling embarrassed to ask for the extension and letting her team members down. She might also be feeling guilty and fearful for her job.

Step 3 – Needs:   In this step we try to guess and identify what needs of the other person are either being met or not being met by this interaction.  Within NVC we identify needs as a basic universal need that are common to all humanity irrespective of our difference. You can refer to the NVC needs list here. According to Marshall Rosenberg , every negative feeling such as anger, frustration are very valuable to us. This is because they point us to the fact that there is an especially important need of ours, that is not being met within that interaction or circumstance. Every positive feeling like joy, happiness etc. point to a need that is being met. 

Example: Mina might be needing support, safety, rest, and rejuvenation.

Step 4- Requests:  Here we make a concrete request to the person that we are interacting with.  When speaking to the other person we cannot assume that what we have guessed about their feelings and needs is right and hence we request them to let us know what they are feeling and needing.

Example: Boss expressing honestly “Mina when you come to me at the last minute and ask for an extension for a project that has already been delayed 3 times, it makes me feel anxious because I am responsible for retaining customers. It also makes me angry and frustrated because I have a need for efficiency in my department. Would you be willing to share your ideas about how we can solve this problem so that it never happens again?

Mina: I am doing my best but due to the Corona situation I have extra family pressures, I feel exhausted. I do not know how I can manage anymore.

Boss: I hear that you are feeling very exhausted and you are needing some rest. Did I hear you correctly?

Mina: More than rest, I need support.

Boss:  I hear you need more support. How can I make sure that we get that support to you?

Mina: I can arrange for someone to look after my boys in the afternoon. Is it possible for you to allow me to work from 12 pm to 8 pm?

Boss:  I will have to shuffle things around, but I think that can be managed until the Corona situation tides over.

Mina: Thank you! I am really grateful.

Here in this interaction with the help of non-violent communication and pure empathetic listening by focusing on the needs and feelings of the other person we were able to find a solution that met the needs of both the parties involved. Listening to someone does not mean that you have to give up on your own needs. Listening allows us to understand the other person so that we all can make our lives more wonderful. As you practise this more often you will realise that NVC is much more than a communication tool. It is a change in awareness and mind-set that makes us more compassionate not only to our own self but also to others.

To learn more about Non-Violent Communication please contact the CNVC center (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication Website: www.cnvc.org Email: cnvc@cnvc.orgPhone: +1.505-244-4041


About Serein

Serein Inc is an end to end service partner for the implementation of Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) legal compliance. We partner with companies on case redressal and policies to proactively build safer work cultures and sexual harassment (POSH) trainings either in person or virtually. For more details on diversity, inclusion and prevention of sexual harassment (POSH training in India and the US).

Our content is designed to enhance the conversation on diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias, emotional and mental wellbeing and role of empathy in the workplace. To know more about how can you initiate a conversation on D&I and implement diversity and inclusion trainings in India, awareness programs and consultation do reach out to us at hello@serein.in

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Abhishek is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in finance and corporate governance. With over 15 years of expertise as a qualified Company Secretary, he has made significant contributions to the finance departments of companies within the real estate and startup sectors.
 
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Rhea is the aesthetic and creative eye behind Serein’s marketing and sales collateral. She manages website content and social media content calendar. She works closely with Serein’s content experts to design catchy invites, toolkits, and company culture reports.

Rhea creates animated content for Serein’s learning platform. She is focused on understanding the user’s need for engagement and learning to create impactful content. 

Rhea holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai where she majored in advertising.

Dr. Ishani Roy

Founder and CEO

Ishani founded Serein to provide a data and research-based approach to solving DEI challenges at the workplace. She advises company leaders, startup founders, and venture capital firms on industry best practices to increase diversity and design a DEI roadmap.

Ishani is a recipient of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award 2023 for the global impact of her work in the DEI space.

Before founding Serein, Ishani was a scientist at GE Research working in the Aerospace Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics from Brown University on developing mathematical models to solve Astrophysics problems. She did her Post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford and St. Thomas Hospital in Biomathematics.

Chryslynn D’Costa

Co-founder and CPO |

Chryslynn leads the product development of Serein’s DEI SaaS tool. She designs learning content and strategic insights for companies to measure their DEI growth, and achieve bias-free recruitment and psychological safety.

Chryslynn is a regular columnist with publications like ‘LiveMint’ and ‘The Hindu’ where she writes about unconscious bias, prevention of sexual harassment, and company culture.

Before Serein, she was a Gandhi Fellow working in rural Rajasthan to address educational leadership and gender equity in government schools. She graduated from Azim Premji University in Bangalore with a Master’s in Education where she specialised in gender and sexuality education.

Bianca D’Costa

Head of PoSH: India, Global

Bianca leads the compliance partnerships and workshops on anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. She has 100+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace.

Bianca designs gamified learning modules for a unique and impactful learner experience on topics like gender inclusion, PwD inclusion, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and regional inclusion among others. 

Before Serein, Bianca worked in hospitality for 5 years with Emirates Airlines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from St. Xavier’s University, Mumbai. She is presently pursuing a Master’s degree in Gender and Sexuality in Global Politics from SOAS University of London.

Aparna Pandurangan

Head of Operations

Aparna is leading the finance and operations at Serein. She has also been responsible for Serein’s online platform, customer management, and marketing.

She works closely with Serein’s 500+ long-term partners to ensure they are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law. Aparna is a workshop facilitator on topics like the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in languages like Tamil, Telugu, and Kannada.

Aparna Pandurangan holds a degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Anna University, Chennai. 

Faakirah Irfan

Head of Legal

Faakirah is a legal professional and expert facilitator on topics like anti-sexual harassment, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination laws in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Faakirah has conducted 100+ training sessions on the prevention of sexual harassment for employees and internal committee members.

She has 150+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace. Her legal research at Serein includes policy analysis, human rights, women’s rights, and document drafting.

Faakirah is an experienced legal professional. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in law with a focus on women’s rights and policy analysis from the University of Kashmir. She holds a Master of Law degree specializing in alternative dispute resolution from O.P Jindal School of Law.

Dr. Ruchika Sharma

Guest Consultant: Gender

Ruchika assists with research and facilitation of sessions on domestic violence, sexual harassment, employee well-being, and women’s leadership. She is a feature writer for Serein’s blogs where she writes about gender, women’s history, domestic violence, and sexual harassment awareness in the workplace.

Ruchika is a published author with books like ‘Concubinage, Race and Law in Early Colonial Bengal: Bequeathing Intimacy, Servicing the Empire’ published by Routledge, Taylor, and Francis publications. She has been teaching History at the University of Delhi for over a decade. She has a Ph.D. in History from the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Arathi Kannan

Head of DEI: India, Global

Arathi leads the design and execution of DEI measurement tools for global partners. These include Serein’s Diversity Index, the scope of unconscious bias in recruitment and promotions, and the scope of unconscious bias in external messaging. 

She has also designed a standardized tool to review company policies and products through an inclusion lens. Arathi leads workshops on inclusion, unconscious bias, domestic violence, mental health, and well-being. 

Arathi is a published researcher with Master’s degrees in Applied Psychology and Criminology from Bond University, Australia. Her experience includes working with people from different backgrounds, including refugee groups.

Thejaswini CA

LMS Platform Associate

Thejaswini is responsible for the operations and maintenance of Serein’s in-house e-learning platform. She assists customers to deliver learning content and assess employee engagement through Serein’s tracking system. 

Thejaswini is also engaged with finance and other operations to ensure Serein’s 500+ long-term partners are compliant with the Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH) law.

Thejaswini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Application from Field Marshal KM Cariappa College, Kodagu.

Bhavini Pant

Safety and PoSH expert

Bhavini serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in industries like education, healthcare, IT, Pharma, and more. She has 70+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations in the workplace and supporting partner organizations on the legal procedure and best practices for workplace safety.

Before Serein, Bhavini worked as an archivist at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, and as an editorial assistant for IIT Bombay’s PR and Alumni Associations department.

She has a Master’s degree in Education from Azim Premji University where she worked extensively with the management on anti-sexual harassment legal implementation. Her work involved the interpretation of the law in a university as a workplace and an educational institution for adults. 

Siri Prasad

Safety and PoSH Expert

Siri Prasad is a Safety and PoSH Expert at Serein and serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients. Her work is not limited to, but includes advising in legal procedures, best practices for safe work cultures, and reviewing of PoSH policies and labor law compliance.

Siri is a Gold Medallist and holds a BBA, LLB (Hons.) from Christ University and a Masters in Science (International Employment Relations) from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where she also served as the EDI Officer.

Rishab Prasad

DEI Specialist

Rishab is passionate about creating long-term partnerships with Serein’s customers. He is responsible for marketing, operations, customer onboarding, contract writing, and relationship building. Rishab uses his directing and filmmaking skills to design engaging content for Serein’s social media platforms.

Rishab holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics with Honours from CHRIST University, Bangalore. He has directed more than nine short films on topics like stigmas of menstruation, widowhood, and adoption.

Kirtika N

Safety and PoSH expert

Kirtika is an expert speaker and workshop facilitator on topics like sexual harassment awareness, bystander intervention, and anti-harassment redressal mechanisms. She has developed learning content for investigating committees on topics like witness cooperation in a workplace sexual harassment inquiry proceeding. 

Kirtika serves as a PoSH external member for 30+ companies in fintech, healthcare, business management, gaming, and more. She has 50+ hours of experience consulting on sexual harassment investigations at the workplace and supporting partner organisations on legal procedure and best practices.

She has a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Montfort College, Bengaluru, and has experience working as a trainee counselor.

Sharanya Venkataraghavan

Safety and PoSH expert

Sharanya serves as a PoSH external member for 15+ companies in e-commerce, fintech, healthcare, SaaS, and more. She supports partner organisations on legal procedures and best practices to build safe work cultures.

She has been involved in the review of PoSH policies, labour law compliances, and research regarding the risk of secondary victimisation of complainants under the PoSH Act.

Sharanya graduated with BBA, LLB (Hons.) degree from Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She has experience in PoSH and employment law with notable law firms like Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Co., J. Sagar and Associates, among others.

Nandini Abraham

Statistical Analyst

Nandini conducts extensive industry-specific research on DEI trends in India, South East Asia, Europe, and the USA. Nandini is responsible for developing statistical models for DEI assessment on Serein’s DEI SaaS Tool. She designs measurement tools for DEI benchmarking, inclusion assessments, and employee experience surveys.

Nandini is passionate about creating engaging and impactful reports, toolkits, and playbooks for Serein’s customers.

Nandini holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Mathematics & Statistics from St. Joseph’s College, Bangalore.

Nithya R

HR and Compliance Lead

Nithya drives operational excellence within the HR function. She ensures that Serein maintains the highest standards of HR practices and ethical conduct. Her role extends beyond traditional HR responsibilities as she also serves as an External Member of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) for Serein’s clients, specialising in preventing workplace harassment through the PoSH vertical.

Nithya has graduated in Commerce from the University of Lucknow and has rich experience in hiring and retaining the best talents in the industry with companies like BukuWarung and Belong.co.

Sri Padmavathi C

Finance Consultant

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Sri Padmavathi C specialises in providing accounting consulting services to companies. She helps in assisting & maintaining Serein’s Books of Accounts, GST, TDS, PT filing, financial statements preparation & audit review.
 
She holds an MBA with Finance Specialisation from Annamalai University, and has also has done CA articleship under CA Tom Joseph’s guidance.

Anisha Debnath

PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator

As a PoSH and DEI Workshops Facilitator, Anisha is primarily responsible for conducting sessions and facilitating conversations that enable building of safe and inclusive workplaces for all. Anisha also undertakes in-depth research into various Diversity, Equity and Inclusion issues that plague our work cultures today. All of this research goes into designing bespoke sessions and curating interactive learning experiences for several of Serein’s partners. 

Anisha has a background in History, especially in the history of gender and early feminism in colonial South Asia. 

Anisha has a Bachelor’s degree in History (Hons.) from Gargi College, University of Delhi. She has also studied for an MPhil in World History from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Aseem Deuskar

Inclusive Workspace Architect

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Aseem is an Inclusive Workspace Architect dedicated to reshaping workplace diversity and accessibility. He is skilled in conducting comprehensive accessibility audits and implementing inclusive design solutions.


Aseem is passionate about creating environments that foster equal opportunities

He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and a Master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning.

 

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