It is 11pm at night and your phone starts buzzing. You pick up the phone thinking it is a family emergency only to find that your colleague Ravi is requesting access to a file. This same colleague bothers you on weekends as well. He is really important to the team and you do not know how to say no to his requests for fear of spoiling your relationship. At the same time, you are feeling really exhausted by the constant disruptions in your family time and it feels like you are working all the time.
The Corona pandemic has created havoc with our daily routines. Working from home and home-schooling children has put added pressure on our lives. The boundaries between work, play and family time have become quite blurred. Studies have shown that people with good work life balance are more productive and creative at work. Exhausted employees are not going to give their best at work. According to Harvard Business Review, the costs of burnt out employees can be very drastic for a company like low productivity , high turnover and loss of capable people.
Often what happens is that even if the culture of the company does not allow it, there might be people who try to break these boundaries created to meet their needs for success and acknowledgement. People with weak time management skills can also create problems for other employees. Creating and enforcing a good company culture is a good step. However, what can we do personally as individuals when faced with such challenges from other people? How do we ensure that people do not cross our boundaries? This article will guide you how to enforce these boundaries with other people in a compassionate manner.
When we set boundaries for ourselves at work with other people, what is it that we are trying to achieve? We are trying to get our needs met. We all have basic universal needs. While achieving success and accomplishing goals are two needs we all have, we also have needs for rest and rejuvenation.
So, what happens when a colleague calls at 10 pm in the night, when you are exhausted? Probably your need for rest and rejuvenation will not be met. This might lead to feelings of anger and frustration. Over time this might lead to resentment and loss of goodwill in the relationship. An angry, resentful employee is not engaged, productive or creative. This article will help you to deal with this communication in a compassionate manner while meeting your needs and the needs of your colleagues in a compassionate manner. Here is how you can talk to Ravi using compassionate communication.
Let us get back to Ravi. Ravi is calling you again at 10 pm, he needs you to help with a team report. Just imagine this scenario once in your mind. Now close your eyes and try to understand the feelings within you that this brings up. If you are not sure what feelings this brings up , please refer to a list of feelings here. In compassionate communication, feelings like anger, frustration, irritation point to needs that are not being met for you in this interaction. Now look within yourself and try to figure out what these needs could possibly be. In case you are unsure of your needs you can refer to the list of needs here. Now that you have understood your feelings and needs you can make a mental note of them.
Example: When Ravi calls me at 10 pm in the night I feel angry, exhausted, and frustrated because my needs for rest and rejuvenation are not being met. Also, my need for respect and space is not being met.
Now, it is going to get a little harder. We have become aware of our own feelings and needs. Now we try to understand what the feelings and needs of Ravi could be in this interaction.
Example: Perhaps when Ravi calls me at 10 pm in the night he is trying to fulfil his need to be efficient at work. This makes him feel at ease. He is also looking for ease when he calls me at 10 pm in the night because this might be a comfortable time for him to work.
Step 3 and 4 – Expressing Honestly and Receiving Empathetically
Now that we have understood our own feelings and needs in this interaction and tried to guess Ravi’s feelings and needs, we have a conversation with Ravi. There are two parts to this conversation. This can be in any order but if possible, it is always better to give the other person empathy first. According to Marshall Rosenberg , the founder of Compassionate Communication when people have felt heard, there is a higher possibility of them hearing you.
Expressing Honestly: Here we state in the beginning only with factual observations of what the other person did and stay away from judgements. Then we try to express as honestly as possible what it is that we are feeling and what needs we have and then make a concrete doable request. Refer to our article on expressing honesty here.
Example: Ravi, I have observed that you call me at 10 pm three times this week, and also on Saturday at 3pm regarding work related tasks. It makes me feel very frustrated because I have a need for rest and rejuvenation in the off-work hours. I also feel very exhausted the next day and it is affecting my work. Do you need any support in terms of completing work tasks during work hours?
Receiving Empathetically: Here we listen with empathy to the person concerned. Empathy is a much-used term but often not correctly understood. According to Marshall Rosenberg, giving someone empathy means to be fully present to the other person’s experience. When the other person speaks, we must try to hear their needs and feelings rather than their criticisms or judgements.
Example: *Ravi replies to your request*
I am new to the team and I have a lot of anxiety around the tasks. I am actually putting in 14 hours of work a day and I want to succeed at this role. Sometimes I am not able to complete the reporting tasks as I am still new to the dashboard and I have to meet the deadlines as I am afraid that my performance will be affected.
You: Do you feel anxiety because you have a need to succeed at your role and are new to the dashboard?
Ravi: Yes, that is right! I need more support on understanding the dashboard.
You: Can we arrange some time next week so I can give you more hands-on training on the dashboard? Would that be something helpful for you right now?
Ravi: Thank you so much! I think that is just what I need!
You: Great, I will set up the meeting.
So, you see here, how a relationship that would have normally been fraught with frustration and anger turned into one that is of mutual support where everyone’s needs are met. A change in mind-set is all that is required where we move from creating enemy images of others to trying to understand their needs and feelings so we can have a mutually wonderful relationship.
To learn more about Non-Violent Communication please contact the CNVC center (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication Website: www.cnvc.org Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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).
At Serein we believe that diversity and inclusion are the pillars of a good society. Issues of inclusion, diversity, mental health can affect home and the workplace in many ways.
Having worked on gender and with many other forms of diversity we have come to realise that an empathetic approach to all builds inclusion. It also builds a trusting environment in society as well as the workplace. If you would like to learn more about diversity and inclusion, inclusive leadership or how to speak about empathy, emotional/mental health issues or have an awareness training on gender and inclusion and mental wellbeing in the workplace, do drop us a line at email@example.com