Across the United States, men and women are opening up about troubling experiences and challenges they’ve faced in the workplace. And it’s more important than ever for employees to feel heard and respected as they find the courage to come forward.
You can support your colleagues simply by listening to them, but the best mentors help colleagues work through their strong emotions, writes Wendy Murphy, associate professor of management at Babson College, for Harvard Business Review.
Mentors can support colleagues by creating safe spaces for them to process emotions that are “disturbing, upsetting, or anxiety provoking,” according to Murphy. Researchers note that this type of emotional support not only helps people interpret and cope with difficult situations, but also empowers them to move forward.
Here are the three skills you should learn to become an effective mentor:
If a colleague approaches you with troubling information, keep your reaction neutral and contain your own feelings about the situation. Your goal is to prevent your colleague from acting impulsively; responding to situation that’s already emotional with more emotion is unproductive, Murphy writes.
Instead, create a safe environment for your colleague to talk about their experience openly and freely. Murphy recommends being accessible and asking questions to better understand your colleague’s perspective.
Validate your colleague’s experience by demonstrating empathy. Your colleague may question his or her sense of self after a particularly unsettling experience, and your compassionate understanding may be all it takes to help your colleague feel understood, Murphy explains.
Help your colleague interpret the situation so he or she can move forward and take the appropriate action. Offer your perspective and be supportive whether your colleague chooses to take action or not (Murphy, Harvard Business Review, 2/23/18).