What is going on under the hood?
Your team is no longer the same. The outside appearance is the same. Shiny and ready to go. That’s great, because you are eager to start doing business again. Much needed now, after a time of heavy losses. The continuity of your business has been affected. But under the hood of your team, parts have shifted. Through months of an emotional roller coaster, resulting in unresolved grief, worries about the future and increased stress levels by 40% (source NCPSB). Prevent sick leave and invest in a kind of mental MOT for your team.
Internationally certified team coach Angela van Dorssen explains what is happening under the hood.
Surface acting is logical but not advisable
Surface acting is about pretending that things are going well and not sharing what is really going on. The so-called ‘Facebook story’. We share the nice things or the things we think other people want to hear. In my daily work I hear: “I don’t want to bother others” – “The other person is not interested”, “My manager just expects me to deliver”, “I’ve shared something like this before, but then I was told I shouldn’t have acted like that”. In other words, being tough is the norm!
From a neuroscience perspective, surface acting is logical. Our brain shuts down when discomfort, pain or grief are present. As humans, we are programmed to stay safe. So indeed, it’s ‘normal’ that we don’t share it AND it’s counterproductive – both personally and professionally. It is making us sick, both in the literal and figurative sense. Our emotions need to be experienced and expressed. It is a precondition for lowering our stress levels and creating space for the next step.
What do you see when you check under the hood?
A palette of emotions, including pleasant ones. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken us on a never-ending emotional roller coaster. Issues I am hearing – and I only mention the more serious themes to get my point across – are: loneliness, depression, (unresolved) loss of loved ones, signs of burn-out or bore-out, domestic violence, worries about income and job loss, concern for parents, old traumas that have resurfaced, relationship problems and behavioural problems in children.
These themes are also prevalent among the people in your team. By the time we can get back on the highway, these issues will not have been processed yet.
Give space where needed and power through where possible
As a manager, you hold a crucial role. A few suggestions:
Be honest about how you feel and actively share it.
Have regular one-to-one contact – ask specifically about emotions and ask open questions.
‘Press pause’ in a work meeting: identify what you are hearing.
Ask what someone needs when emotions are surfacing.
Make space for emotions by taking the time to reflect on them and allowing silence.
Remember that appearances can be deceiving. If there are problems hidden under the hood, you won’t get very far.
Feel free to call if you have any questions!