Emotional Needs of Your Employees

Ending and Starting a Year

By  Dr. Ted Sun And Dr. Lloyd Williams

Recently featured in Forbes

Constant uncertainty has been haunting humanity for years now. Just as the holidays rolled around, the emergence of the Omicron variant hit the financial markets hard on Black Friday. Earlier in the year, the Delta variant created another wave of uncertainty, just as people were starting to enjoy life more. The vaccines have been questionable in the face of these new variants. No one knows how many variants are going to emerge and when we might be able to get back to normal. All of this takes a significant toll on people’s mental health. How can we remain productive in the face of so much uncertainty about how we live our lives?

Within the workplace, countless people have been transitioned into the remote environment. While this may work for some, many are struggling. From a relational perspective, remote work has added strain. Many people are “zoomed out”. No matter how many virtual meetings you have, it can never replace the physical meetings that bond people together. As social creatures, everyone is struggling to find their place in the workplace, to feel a sense of belonging, to know that their ideas are valued. We are all dealing with the psychological injuries from this pandemic and surrounding events. The emotional needs of employees are greater than ever as people are facing the constant uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

A Meaningful Year End/ New Year Kickoff Event

A year end event or a new year kickoff event must both heal and strengthen the emotional and mental health of the employees. And it doesn’t stop as an isolated event, but a continual development of leaders from an emotional intelligence perspective. The following are some tips for year-end or new year kickoff events:

  1. Know the emotional state of your employees: Implement an inclusive process to gather the emotional state of your team. Just like a doctor visit, you’ll need to know where people are with their emotional and mental health before prescribing an intervention. Measure key emotions like belonging, trust, safety (emotional, psychological, physical), etc.
  2. Integrate organizational needs with employees’ emotional needs in the event: The amount of uncertainty and stress requires leaders to integrate all needs, including those at the individual level, team level, and organizational level. Design the event to be inclusive and truly consider the needs of the individual. This would happen at the content level, as well as how it will run.
  3. Design activities to meet emotional needs: This is where emotional intelligence makes a huge impact, creating meaningful activities that drive long term results. The current environment demands a lot more than the standard fun element. It needs to help people bond. Depending on the findings from Step 1, inclusive activities can begin the healing process.
  4. Create/enhance processes and systems: The year end and/or new year kick off event is only a starting point. If no changes happen in processes and systems, your employees will not take it seriously. You don’t want people to see it as another fun event. Collaborate with leaders to enhance how basic tasks are accomplished. Dealing with the current emotional and mental health of your employees calls for consistent engagement, not just a single event.
  5. Develop leaders to achieve a culture of belonging and inclusion: To walk the talk of any leadership approach, those in management positions must execute from a leadership perspective. They will need to shift traditional reactive management approaches to proactive leadership processes and systems. Leaders can practice daily emotional maintenance task for themselves as well as their team members. We all spend time each day to do physical maintenance like brushing your teeth. Yet most do not take even five minutes to practice emotional maintenance. For example, before starting a meeting, ask everyone to share their emotional state. Enabling people to share their emotions creates focus; knowing the emotional state of the team enables leaders to strategically navigate employee attitudes.

In the past, companies have invested millions of dollars in these events. While they were fun, how many tangible and sustainable results were achieved from these events? The expectation of these events cannot simply be to have fun and boost morale in the short term, the current environment demands a systemic approach to healing the emotional and mental state of employees.

A systems approach goes well beyond surface numbers. For example, many diversity, equity, & inclusion initiatives may hit diversity quotas, but they fail to systemically shift how the organization achieves an inclusive culture. A recent Harvard Business Review article found that many minority leaders are struggling to thrive, feeling isolated and decreasing in confidence. The article concluded that caring leadership is the key. While easier said than done, the year end or new year event is a major element of showing care for the employees. Afterwards, continued development of leaders can help employees to feel safe, to be visible, and to be supported, especially in the remote workplace, where new skills are required.

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