Self-esteem is the essence of life; a belief in self built on all our experiences, whether positive or negative. The first 5 to 6 years of life are known as the formative years. This period is when we are most impressionable; it is the time when we learn our values, develop our beliefs, and form our behaviors from the very people we trust most and with whom we feel most secure; our parents. As we absorb their teachings, the information becomes deeply ingrained in us.
One of the aspects that make life interesting is that we are all different from one another. Yet despite our uniqueness, we are expected to live together as a society. How well we get along with others, our happiness, our health, and how well we do in life fundamentally comes back to what we feel about ourselves; our self-esteem.
Self-esteeming refers to our experiences. Simply put, self-esteeming is whatever is put into or taken out of our self-esteem. Positive experiences help build our sense of self, while negative ones tear it away. When our self-esteem is positive and healthy, we feel good and are able to listen openly, grow, and take risks. When it is negative or unhealthy, we retreat, acquiesce, are defensive, and fearful of taking risks. We become closed to experiences, avoid dealing with conflict, distrust others, and remain stagnant with little to no growth.
From a management perspective, it should be obvious that we must strive to provide our direct reports with consistent positive experiences, rather than negative ones. The suggestion here is not to avoid dealing with difficult or compromising situations with our employees. Quite the contrary. What we need to do is focus on extracting positive experiences from negative situations. We need to develop self-esteeming relationships with our employees.
Here’s a situation;
You notice that one of your employees is now habitually late coming back from brakes. A few weeks ago, lateness occurred occasionally and “you let it slide” but now it’s become the norm and no longer the exception.
You are now witnessing the fact that consequences of uncorrected behavior quickly escalate, so as this employee’s supervisor, you have an obligation to mitigate this situation by speaking with the employee, as you do not wish this situation to recur.
What happens if you criticize, attack verbally, put down, or threaten the employee with negative consequences? When this approach is taken, what you manage to do is create a negative experience from a negative situation. This is not an example of a self-esteeming relationship but rather one of blatant managerial malpractice.
The key to successful resolution of these types of conflicts is to avoid turning a professional conflict into a personal one, regardless of the way you feel about the person. Remain calm, objective, and above all, respectful. Start by communicating your observations to the employee. “I noticed that you are often coming back late from brakes”. Then, focus on understanding the reasons for the tardiness. “Can you tell me the reason(s) for your now habitual lateness?” Make sure you listen attentively as there may be some valid reasons. Then communicate the expectation. “It is important to me, the department, and the company that everyone respects working hours. If I avoid speaking with you about this, I’m simply not doing my job and I am telling you, and the rest of the team, although in a silent way, that it’s OK for you and anyone else who choose to come in late whenever they want. Do you understand my point of view?” Then ask for a commitment. “Can I count on you to return from brakes on time from now on?” This approach has allowed you to extract a positive experience from a negative situation. You can apply this strategy to any conflicts that require resolution.
Self-esteeming relationships are founded on mutually respectful partnerships between our employees and us. Healthy and functional, these synergistic relationships are based on trust, honesty, and effective two-way communication. Self-esteeming communication helps our employees improve their self-esteem and increase their commitment, which ultimately results in better organizational performance.
In addition to the strategy in the above example, there are other effective ways to help your employee improve their self-esteem.
POSITIVE RECOGNITION – commending your employees on a “job well done” through praise, reward, positive feedback. When an employee performs a task to completion, meets or “goes beyond” expectations, and is positively recognized for it, that same employee is motivated to continue meeting and exceeding future expectations.
INVOLVEMENT – solicit input from your team when problem solving and making decisions, particularly if those same decisions directly affect them. Employees feel valued and are seen as contributors.
EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION – as a general rule, treat others the way you want to be treated; with respect and dignity. Respectful treatment of others facilitates trust, credibility, and fosters positive relationships. It’s just good business!
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