How to Avoid Causing Emotional Injury to Others

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It’s always present and mostly sitting in the background, it’s is the evidence that emotion significantly overrides logic.

Employees often share situations where they felt disrespected or belittled and those situations impacted their ability to trust others. Some of those emotional injuries and scars were from personal experiences at home as a child and others were inflicted in the workplace by the careless actions of supervisors and managers.

When people’s feelings are hurt it causes them to get defensive, sometimes lashing out at others aggressively or withdrawing from the workgroup and reducing their job performance.

Your goal as a leader is to look after the emotional well being of your team in order to help them achieve high performance.

Think of your actions in two ways: first, avoid causing emotional injury to your team and second, help the team heal from previous emotional injuries.

Here are three tips on how to avoid causing emotional injury to others:

1. Maintain dignity and respect

When you talk down to people, it makes people feel belittled. Talking down can happen in one of two ways:

You could make deliberately disparaging comments like “You’re an idiot.” or “Why do I feel like a glorified babysitter?”

More likely, it will come across in the tone you use. When your tone is condescending and belittling it will make the person feel inadequate. Avoid sounding like a Kindergarten teacher talking to five-year-olds. Treat team members as peers and be conversational in your approach.

Emotional injury and its residue from emotional encounters can impact people’s behavior and attitude far into the future. Share on X

2. Avoid embarrassment in front of peers

When there is a performance or behavior problem with one of your team members, it is important to handle the situation with discretion and confidentiality. Peer pressure is a big deal and you want the employee to change their behavior without being ridiculed by their co-workers. Have corrective conversations in private.

Even praise can cause embarrassment by centering the team member out in front of their peers. Some employees love being praised in front of others but most prefer the praise to be done privately.

3. Help people feel included and valued

When you ask team members for their input, it makes them feel more important. Keeping your team members in the loop by letting them know what is happening in the department or company will help them feel part of the team. Avoid playing favorites as much as possible by spreading your time and attention across the workgroup and distributing work assignments fairly.

Employees who have hurt feelings from emotional injury aren’t able to perform to their full potential. In addition, emotional injuries cause people to be more defensive towards others either passively, aggressively or sometimes a combination of both.

Once you or a fellow leader causes emotional hurt, the residue will impact results, employee engagement and destroy trust. Make it a point to help your team feel respected and valued and you’ll get better performance and deep loyalty from the team.

How do you as a leader avoid causing emotional injury to those on your team? Let me know in the comments below.

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