Soft skills can take their toll: why and how to protect your workforce

One of three posts that share some of the insights presented at a virtual conference focusing on the workforce. This article looks at how the pandemic has taken its toll on empathetic employees and what you can do to protect them.

by Rebecca Bridger

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Soft skills can take their toll: why and how to protect your workforce

Emotions are tough

Being empathetic is tough. Picking up on the feelings of those around you whilst dealing with the constant presence of pressure takes its toll. Saying that ‘soft skills are harder than you think’ isn’t just a play on words – there can be a cost to the individual. 

Riding the rollercoaster

We spend our days riding a rollercoaster that can take us through the entire emotional spectrum – from relaxed through to pressured and back again. 

It takes time for us to recover from the dips, and our current pace of life often means we don’t get the opportunity we need to adequately recover before the next day begins. This is compounded by the limitations imposed by the pandemic which has taken away some of the outlets we would normally get from colleague interactions or the respite of a commute. 

For most of the clients that I work with, they’re trying to juggle responding to the pandemic, whilst also trying to ensure some semblance of business as usual is happening. Over months and years there is often an accumulation of many days like the one illustrated above that slowly, if not dealt with, results in an accumulation of emotional debt and eventually burnout.

‘Emotional debt’ describes an accumulation of unprocessed stressors in an individual, sometimes held as micro-trauma or tension in the body. Carrying an emotional debt results in numerous downsides, such as stronger negative responses to stressors, and a difficulty in being able to relax. 

Protecting your people

If you don’t provide the right support to your staff, in particular managers, recurring pressure without recovery will eat away at their resilience reserves and negatively impact their wellbeing.

That’s why in our line management or resilience and wellbeing programmes we place an emphasis on ‘managing one’s self’ as much as ‘managing others’. Particularly if you are in a position of authority, your mood matters

For leaders and managers who are trying to cope with the accrual of emotional debt, it will have a knock-on effect on staff. I offer some tips to improve how you manage mental wellbeing, and other articles that feature interventions such as as positive thinking or labeling the emotions of others.

What you can do to help

Wondering what you can do within your own organisation? I’d start by educating your line managers on key concepts, such emotional debt, so they can develop self-awareness of what they’re going through. 

Next introduce a tool or framework that works in your organisation, such as energy zones, so individuals can self analyse themselves and others. Introduce a language that works for your environment. 

Finally, make some organisational changes. Interventions to protect employees tend to put the emphasis on what the individual does and can fail to recognise what the organisation itself can do to change the context. The JD-R model is great for this. 

As COVID-19 eventually dissipates from our lives, don’t forget to hold on to the holistic understanding that you’ve already developed of your colleagues, ask meaningful questions, react with with reason, and protect those you work with. If you’re interested in finding out how myself

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Rebecca Bridger

Rebecca Bridger

Founder of Hatching Ideas, Rebecca is an experienced coach and facilitator and is particularly passionate about helping others to realise their potential.
Rebecca Bridger

Rebecca Bridger

Founder of Hatching Ideas, Rebecca is an experienced coach and facilitator and is particularly passionate about helping others to realise their potential.

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