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VALIDATION: MEETING EMOTIONAL NEEDS IN THE WORKPLACE
What Dr. Paul Standal finds when working with occupational stress is that both employees’ and supervisory personnel’s unmet emotional needs contribute substantially to a majority of problems in a work environment. A key to a successful workplace environment is one in which a context of emotional validation is communicated throughout the organization. When managers, supervisors and employees feel validated, their emotional needs are satisfied and they feel better, and when people feel better they are more:
• • Productive • Motivated • Patient • Cooperative • Open-Minded • Flexible • Creative • Understanding • Accepting • Empathetic • Complimentary • Compassionate To validate someone is to give understanding and communicate acceptance of their feelings, ideas and individuality.
Validating someone opens a space of regard for the individual to accept themselves. Self-acceptance is a key to self-esteem. High self-esteem contributes to high work satisfaction and productivity. Often, the only thing we need is validation to feel better in an interpersonal conflict. All humans need to feel respected, even the least powerful. To show respect to someone, we must respect their thoughts, ideas and feelings.
Communicating one’s positive regard for another is the basis of respect. We show respect through validation and empathy by asking about ideas and feelings. Respecting someone means asking them how they would feel before making a decision which affects them. The effective manager, then, knows how to identify and manage the workplace environment to reinforce a sense of validation, not only with subordinates, but with a spectrum of stakeholders, both the customers and the employees. A simple six step plan that a manager or supervisor can use to validate, while resolving a problem is:
1. Identify the primary negative feelings. 2. Identify the cause of the feelings. 3. Ask, “What would help (me/you) feel better?” 4. Generate options. 5. Choose the best option. 6. Review the results of the option and accommodate as needed.
More desirable feelings, which management can help create through sensitivity to the emotional needs for validation, are:
• • Respected • Trusted • Special • Acknowledged • Appreciated • Useful • Supported • Important • Valued and Valuable • Helped • Irreplaceable
Invalidation, on the other hand, is to reject, ignore, mock, tease, judge, or diminish someone’s ideas and feelings. Invalidation goes beyond mere rejection by implying not only that our feelings and ideas are disapproved of, but also that we are fundamentally abnormal for having them. Psychological invalidation is destructive and one of the most counterproductive ways to control or manage others in an organization. It kills confidence, creativity and individuality. It has been found that invalidation and negativity among employees in an organization commonly creates feelings such as:
• • Disrespected • Unappreciated • Unmotivated • Stressed • Overworked • Underpaid • Over-Controlled • Unsupported • Criticized • Apathetic • Afraid • Insecure • Exploited • Judged • Unfulfilled • Underestimated It is important for managers to identify symptoms of invalidation in the workplace that can contribute negative employee satisfaction and workplace environment. Signs of problems caused by invalidation and negative feelings are:
• • Increase in defensiveness • Inefficient communication • Dishonesty, secrecy, evasiveness • Decrease in creativity • Fear of risk-taking • Fear of judgment and disapproval • Increased turnover • Increased absenteeism • Lost work time • Inefficient problem solving • Fear of criticism • Increased personal attacks
A common form of invalidation found in the workplace is being led to believe there is something wrong with you for thinking or feeling some way. Employees may be judged as too “sensitive” or “dramatic” and their thoughts or feelings ignored or censored. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a direct result of this kind of invalidation, leading to coercion and a lack of respect. Teaching employees at all levels to express their feelings directly is an important invention in heading off this kind of destructive behavior. Teaching employees to identify invalidating behaviors and attitudes in themselves and what it means to respect another’s feelings is an imperative part of successful management. Signs of negative feelings and attitudes of invalidation are being:
• Start talking about feelings • Start respecting them • Start assigning value to them • Include feelings in decision-making and problem resolution • Listen to the most sensitive people in the organization • Strike a balance between emotion and logic • Prohibit invalidation • Make your business a place of mutual respect for thoughts and feelings
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