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IS YOUR WORKPLACE TOXIC OR ARE YOU TORPID?

IS YOUR WORKPLACE TOXIC OR ARE YOU TORPID?

Picture Source: Freepik

 

 

I’ve got a lazy employee, what do I do?

 

If I count the number of times that I have heard that statement being used, I probably should own a mansion by now. But the real question is this, “do employees really just become lazy or is there an underlying problem somewhere and what can leaders do about this?”

The word, torpid can be defined as being mentally or physically inactive or lethargic. Often this word can be used as a synonym for lazy. After writing an article about whether employees should stay in a toxic workplace or leave, it is imperative to bring a balance to the conversation and find out if the workplace is truly toxic or if you’ve become torpid. It is not unusual to hear the word, “lazy” thrown around casually by fellow coworkers, bosses, or employees, especially when a person’s work habits are frustrating to them. But let’s face it, we all have our lazy days. Sometimes, this “laziness” is not laziness but a classic case of burnout. Most people experience burnout at some point in their lives, especially employees working in high-stress environments like startups. Jobs that are repetitive or monotonous are also a factor for torpidity and being tagged as lazy.

 

Humans are especially fragile beings and persistent hard work can easily wear us down. It is a physiological and psychological reaction; absolutely normal. It is why we are prone to breaking down and becoming less productive as we count down to the end of work. [remember how you feel when it’s TGIF?] When an employee has gotten to a torpid tipping point, chances are that any demand on productivity can be interpreted negatively. For example, if Greg is burnt out, feeling disengaged and low on morale but his boss demands that he handle a strenuous job, he is likely to feel “maltreated” and stuck in a “toxic work environment”. But is that really the case? Is it a toxic workplace or is he torpid?

 

A toxic work environment is caused by factors like sexual harassment, a lack of respect for boundaries, and micromanagement among others. Each of these factors can create stressful conditions in the workplace for employees and cause negative health consequences the same way torpidity can, which is why it is important to know without an iota of doubt whether what you feel is a result of toxicity or torpidity like we saw in Greg’s example. The issue was not a toxic workplace, it was fatigue resulting in employee disengagement and a decline in productivity. [to know if you have a toxic workplace environment, read this article]

 

Employees are torpid or disengaged for many reasons but they all converge at a point – how they feel when they interact with:

 

1. Ineffective Leadership

Leadership ineffectiveness occurs when an individual in a supervisory position does not fulfil the guidance or teaching expectations of their job. Managers tend to be excellent at managing, but they are not always great at leading. This is especially true for new managers who have an ego typical of a manager but are not exhibiting the characteristics of an effective leader. No matter the industry, when employees see their leaders fail at leading, they tend to become demotivated and become disengaged. For example, a friend mentioned that the worst boss he ever had would provide him with feedback that always said something like, “you’re doing a great job.” But they both knew it wasn’t true — the organization was in disarray, turnover was excessive, and customers and employees were not happy. A leader must be firm, rooted in purpose and not afraid to lead.

2. Strong Office Politics

It is common for large organizations and organizations with egoistic leaders to have absurd office politics. Microcosms within a company are extremely detrimental not just to engagement but also to growth and revenue. It is possible for office politics to disenfranchise employees, thereby causing them to lose valuable bonds and relationships that could have contributed to the employee’s engagement, reducing torpidity. Office politics often motivates employees to focus on maintaining their ‘position’ rather than excelling. It is not healthy for any employee to get caught up in office politics. It is stressful. It is draining. It demotivates. It does destroy an organization’s possibility to improve productivity.

3. Purposeless Jobs

It is logical [and research-based] to postulate that if employees believe that their work is meaningless and does not contribute to the company, they will feel disengaged, torpid and think that their work is worthless. In the absence of organizational purpose being hardwired into roles and responsibilities, it is hard for employees to internalize their work and understand its relationship to the company’s values. Since there is no drive, this is a sure recipe for employees becoming “lazy”.

 

Employee laziness or torpidity can be attributed to a multitude of reasons beyond those mentioned in this article. However, with every problem comes solutions. Leaders and managers must understand that for employees to be highly engaged, it takes a combination of both effective leadership and management tactics. Think long-term. Here are a few steps leaders can take to improve employee engagement:

  • Drive purpose in their job: how is what they do contributing to the business’s goals? That should be the basis of their job description. Don’t forget: every contribution is important in its own right, even if it isn’t equal to others.
  • Make sure your employees are getting the tools they need to function by checking in with them. The fact that you show interest, even if you cannot deliver most of it, is a major factor in building trust between employees and management which is a vital tool to help the employee stay motivated on the job.
  • Be open-minded, genuine, and sincere in your approach to understanding the needs of employees. It will close the gap between them and management and allow for ease in communication.
  • Take office politics out of the picture and ensure a smooth career path for them. When people feel safe somewhere, they are much more inclined to work harder.
  • Provide as many growth opportunities as possible for those with potential

 

Summary:

It is easy as a leader to blame employees as lazy but not many people we term as lazy in the workplace are truly lazy.  It all boils down to whether they are motivated or demotivated.  Sometimes, a person could lack motivation for a long period of time and nobody gets to the root cause and so they get fired or they resign. Leaders need to motivate and inspire their teams. In order to understand what motivates your staff, you’ll need to work hard and establish a relationship with them. The idea of having lunch with someone seems simple enough, but when you are busy with your own deadlines, meetings, and personal struggles, trying to find the time to meet up falls to the wayside but establishing this relationship is important.  In some cases, the job isn’t the right fit for that employee, but as a leader, you can do your part to minimize the risk of losing a potentially good employee, especially if it is because of an inaccurate assessment of their character.

TOXIC WORKPLACE; TO STAY OR TO LEAVE?

TOXIC WORKPLACE; TO STAY OR TO LEAVE?

“My boss texted me a question at 3:50 am and got mad when I didn’t respond quickly enough. I have my notifications off until 7:30 am”
Ever experienced this? 

Even on good days, all jobs have some level of stress. However, if you constantly feel tired, depressed or even ill when you go to work (or just thinking about going to work gives you panic attacks), that’s more than just general work stress. These symptoms might be related to toxic work environments. In recent times, there has been an uproar of horrible bosses and toxic workplace conversations on different platforms, social media inclusive.

 

What Really is a Toxic Workplace?

A toxic work environment is one where negative, antagonistic, or bullying behaviour is baked into the very culture. When a work environment is toxic, employees are at their most stressed, communication is limited, blame culture is abundant, and people are rewarded (tacitly or explicitly) for unethical, harmful, or nasty attitudes and actions. On the other hand, in a toxic work environment, bosses many times show signs of favouritism; rewarding certain individuals (often the more cut-throat, Machiavellian types) for doing whatever it takes to get results, regardless of the human consequences of their actions.

Toxic work environments are characterized by factors such as sexual harassment, a lack of respect for boundaries, and micromanagement. Each of these elements can create stressful conditions in the workplace for employees and cause negative health consequences. Also, any place of employment that does not solicit feedback and employee-led changes in policy is at risk of becoming a toxic workplace.

 

How Common Are Toxic Workplaces?

Unfortunately, they are very common. Usually, it is because bosses are more interested in results being delivered without regard for the “how”. Every organization needs to make profits but when this is done without taking employee emotions into consideration, it can become a breeding ground for workplace toxicity which eventually leads to high turnover rates. One study from Talent Works, found that a toxic work environment is the most common factor that deters women from pursuing tech roles, with 21% citing frequent experiences. HRnews revealed in a paper that 70% of people working in Britain admitted they have worked in a toxic environment at some stage of their career. On average, 1.3% of American employees at large companies explicitly describe their company’s culture as toxic or poisonous, according to Glassdoor. While there is no specific data for the Nigerian workplace ecosystem, the agitations that took place in the month of March on Twitter, that led to the hashtag #HorribleBosses, revealed the depth of toxicity going on in many offices. The most comprehensive study came from MIT researchers revealing that toxic culture is driving the “Great Resignation”. More specifically, they found that a toxic corporate culture is 10.4 times more powerful than compensation in predicting a company’s attrition rate.

 

Is It OK To Stay In A Toxic Workplace?

Well, it depends! If your job role allows you to carry out tasks that boost your career and you have a short time frame, sometimes, it’s worth staying in a toxic culture especially when you can see tangible opportunities that can fast-track your career or benefit you in the long term. However, you need to be aware that toxic workplaces rarely stay at work. They typically follow you home and everywhere else. They take over your conversations with loved ones, steal away much-needed sleep, and generally cause worry and stress. Toxic workplaces can lead to stress, burnout, depression, damage to your self-esteem, and serious disruptions in your normal life. It can make you doubt yourself and strip you of your self-esteem and identity. You need to know when it is time to leave that environment else you can be left desolate and despairing for life. Basically, it can cause serious damage to the rest of your life. I personally have spent about two years in a toxic work environment. It stripped me of my self worth and sense of identity and at the time I left, I had lost almost 10kg of weight, I was depressed, I had lost my sense of purpose and direction, and my life was basically meaninglessUnfortunately, this is a pattern I’ve seen over and again in my engagement with some organizations that have not infused ‘Workplace Emotions’ into their HR policies, something we help organizations thrive at.

These are not uncommon outputs of staying in a toxic workplace. When you identify the signs of a toxic work environment, here are three questions that you must ask yourself in order to accurately determine if you can still remain there or if you need to cut your losses sooner and move on:

     1. Are you in a healthy place mentally, emotionally, and physically? It is a well-known fact that working in a toxic workplace can be extremely draining, therefore, it is crucial to think about your holistic state of health. How developed is your emotional ‘shock-absorber’? When you work in a toxic environment you are bound to experience all sorts of impacts. You need to already be in a holistically healthy place already. You should also know that even if the organization decides to change, that change is not going to happen immediately, so you’ll really need to be in it for the long haul. Are you up for that?

 

     2. Are you in a position of Influence? This is an important question to answer because the importance of finding psychological safety in the workplace cannot be overemphasized. An environment where you can be vulnerable, authentic, and honest is something lacking in a toxic culture. Humans are naturally designed to thrive in this kind of social environment. If you are not a decision-maker in the organization, you might never have the opportunity to turn the tides from negativity to positivity. It would be difficult for you to advocate for the change you want to see that could have made a tremendous difference if you were in a position of influence.

 

     3. Can you switch teams to a more psychologically safe one? If you are truly passionate about the work that your organization is doing, it might be worth assessing whether you can work with another team if you find that working in your own team is toxic. There are instances where the organizational culture is terrible, but there are pockets within the organization where things are fine. If you find that opportunity, latch on to it.

If you answered “NO” to any of those three questions posed above then it is a good decision to walk away from that toxicity before you get drowned.

 

Summary:

Finding fulfilling work might be hard to come by, but in order to protect your mental health, you might need to forfeit toxic jobs. When you’re in a toxic workplace, it’s easy to feel like you’re powerless and on a downward spiral, but you need to be able to self-affirm. Remind yourself why you chose to stay there in the first place and never forget that you are in the driver’s seat of your life. No one can make it go outside of what you choose. Again, choose your mental health over any martyr complex.

 

 

 

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HOMEPLACE DYNAMICS THAT FUEL GENDER ROLES IN THE WORKPLACE

HOMEPLACE DYNAMICS THAT FUEL GENDER ROLES IN THE WORKPLACE

Picture Source: Freepik

 

“It was tea break at my first ever board meeting and as the only female present, I was told to serve the coffee. I asked them how they had been doing it before I came there and they all went silent. Apparently, the other female whose role I just took up had been the one serving. Trash!”

 

Relatable?

 

Despite many advances for women, there are still certain distinguishing features in the feminine and masculine roles in the workplace. Throughout history, men have been privileged at work, while women have been relegated to domestic duties and homemaker roles. Today, “privileged” males still feel entitled to special treatment at work, while women may feel unjustly treated as underdogs. It is not out of place that sometimes, feminine and masculine roles can work to each other’s benefit, but sometimes they can also be detrimental if the effects of the homeplace dynamics are not factored into consideration. It is common knowledge that women have long dealt with less than equal treatment and pay, glass ceilings and a host of other limitations placed on their working lives. But what is intriguing is the fact that even though it seems that women are governed by the same rules as men in the workplace, there are a set of unwritten rules that are implied and just as restrictive as in the story shared above. The workplace is not always fair for all involved, but when you know what to expect, you can be better prepared for issues that arise. This article seeks to address the role of the home-place dynamics and how it affects gender roles in the workplace.

 

Women at Work: Common Misconceptions

The notion that women are weaker than men is a mindset that has been entrenched from childhood. From the home place, men have always been raised to feel superior to the female gender. A patriarchal society has always been the norm and even though many support groups have arisen and are still rising to empower the voices of women, certain established thought processes over generations will take time to erode. These misconceptions subtly find themselves at play even in the workplace and they form hindrances to women as they look for advancement opportunities and leadership roles. Many women are having to work twice as hard just to prove that they can do their jobs excellently because some managers and bosses do not believe that women are as capable as men. It is why women are expected to be servers at events while their male counterparts expect to be served. Despite these misconceptions, women often overcome obstacles to achieve success.

 

1. Women are Weak Leaders:

“Be a man! Stop behaving like a woman”, is a common statement often made in the home. From childhood, we’ve been taught that females are emotional and we see this ideology at play even in the workplace. Leadership styles often differ between men and women, leading to the misconception that women are emotional and do not make good leaders. But is this truly accurate? Women were found to be more receptive to team efforts in the workplace than their male counterparts, according to a 2005 study by Catalyst. The study declared women as more “supportive and rewarding” in leadership roles. These women employed more compassionate and constructive behaviour in regard to their team. Furthermore, women proved to be more persuasive and scored higher than men when it came to both persuasiveness and assertiveness. According to an article published by IntechOpen, one cannot conclude that men’s leadership skills are more powerful and more important than women’s skills or vice versa, but it is clear that gender differences do exist and people should capitalize on them.  Many women like to spend meeting times talking through problems, asking for advice and resolving issues through communication. Many men on the other hand may solve problems by working through issues and solving problems on their own. Women may appear weak or indecisive as a result of the differences between their leadership styles, but this is actually a great way to build teamwork. It is best to consider the word ‘complementary’ when comparing the male vs female leadership style rather than the word ‘different’. It is also possible for leaders to break out of the stereotype and develop a series of skills that are not necessarily traditionally linked to their own gender.

 

2. Family Life Distracts Women

Women are homemakers, therefore, they cannot give their best to “other things”. Have you heard this before?  It is a common misconception about working women that they have a stronger sense of family loyalty than men. The Reuters article (in 2009) described a study conducted by researchers from the University of Illinois, Chicago, concerning the family and work responsibilities of transportation employees and how many bosses believed women had a greater tendency to have conflicts between their family and work obligations, resulting in less productivity. This of course was just a perception and is not accurate. Unfortunately, because of this misconception, women are often forced to prove loyalty to their employers by working harder than their male counterparts or making sacrifices such as not spending time with family. Even sadder is the discriminatory practice that originates from the idea that mothers are dedicated to their families first and their work second. As a result, their benefits are often negatively impacted, as are their chances of receiving promotions and raises, as well as their selection for high-profile projects. These factors are more than enough to stifle a mother’s career.

 

3. Men Are Nurtured to be Confident and Assertive

Men generally feel more confident in their work environment than women and this is no surprise. Men have been groomed as the head of the home and confidence as well as leadership traits are a natural process of their upbringing. The tendency for men to attempt tasks they aren’t prepared for is more of a ‘privilege’ trait imbibed from the homeplace than an evolutionarily inherited trait. Men have been nurtured to “be a man” so showing fear “is not allowed”. In contrast, many women may feel unprepared even when they have prepared diligently. Culturally, women are not expected to assert themselves, especially in the presence of men. They are supposed to be “meek”, “submissive” and “obedient” even though these words are simply a front for the true intent of the word society seeks to use – “doormats” and “subjugated”. Unfortunately, this upbringing affects women at work because they don’t assert themselves and make their voices heard as men do. For example, many women fail to apply for jobs outside their expertise, but men are more likely to take the chance. The implication of this is that women are sometimes overlooked at work and are even likely to be offered less salary than men with the same credentials. When women seek to be heard at their workplaces, which is against societal and homeplace upbringing, she is called ambitious, callous and uncaring in her actions. Whereas her male counterpart is called daring, a goal-getter and an achiever.

 

Summary

Despite the fact that gender roles at work are less clear cut than they used to be, and women are becoming more empowered, many men still hold onto ‘privilege’, enabling them to feel more comfortable at work than their female counterparts and this is as a result of the difference in their upbringing. We need to prioritize giving our girls a voice from the home, making them understand the difference between submission and subjugation, and allowing them to assert themselves while retaining their feminity. The real work is done from the homeplace. Otherwise, women will continue to be underestimated in the workplace and it will propel them to work harder and take on more responsibilities than necessary resulting in an increased workload and work-family life imbalance.

IDENTITY CRISES FROM THE WORKPLACE [WORKPLACE DYNAMICS]

IDENTITY CRISES FROM THE WORKPLACE [WORKPLACE DYNAMICS]

Picture Source: Freepik

“We are three people: the person we think we are, the person others think we are, and the person we really are.”

-Anonymous

 

Employees’ perceptions of themselves are shaped by many factors, but in particular, what others say about them. Here’s what we know, in most cases, employee identity crisis usually leads to dissatisfaction and poor work performance. It can, therefore, be detrimental for an employee to become too enmeshed in who their peers think they are or say they should be as it can, in many ways, distort them from contributing effectively to their workplace in the way that comes most naturally to them. If there is no system in place to ensure that employees have the latitude to self-discovery, the resultant effect is a workplace culture that misrepresents, misunderstands, and underutilizes employees. When there are employee identity crises, organizations will struggle with growth, innovation, and the ability to pursue opportunities.

 

As humans, it is an innate desire to want to feel valued, respected and loved irrespective of one’s hierarchical positioning or ranking. This is not out of place. In recent dispensation, with the increasing awareness of mental health, employees want to be a part of an organizational culture that allows them to discover their identities and thrive on that discovery so that they can give expression to their fullest potential. Of course, this is beneficial to any organization. Unfortunately, a supervisor or boss lacking emotional intelligence or caring more about advancing themselves than serving others can short-circuit this discovery process which ultimately leads to employee identity crises in the workplace.

 

With the upsurge of economic downturns, job competition and high unemployment rates, more people are turning up for employment where they don’t quite fit; exchanging their happiness and full potential for a salary. It’s in situations like this that employees find themselves underperforming and unfulfilled without a well-defined identity to serve as their anchor. Whenever employees get caught up in office politics or are constantly concerned about how they appear in the eyes of others, they will find it difficult to freely contribute to the team. If employees are not constantly in touch with their identities, over time, their work becomes a monotonous duty rather than a discovery process. Instead of developing competencies and expanding in capacity, they become stuck and confused and that is because their identity has become a compendium of the expectations and definitions of others rather than theirs. This can breed a disengaged workforce and when your workforce is out of alignment, how can you effectively lead?

 

The building of workplace environments that allow employees to express their authentic identities is crucial as organizations continue to reinvent themselves. You must stay aware of the following five workplace dynamics that can lead to employee identity crises so that your organization remains highly productive with a talent pool that is maximized and kept on track:

 

1. Micromanaging

It was Steve Jobs who said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Every employee is an important part of the larger machine — your organization. Every part of the machine should be allowed to function effectively. Just imagine for a second that your car’s engine decides to function as the door, the carburettor, and the shock-absorber rather than providing oversight leadership like it currently does. Or imagine your brain wanting to be the digestive system, the excretory system, the reproductive system, and the respiratory system, all at the same time rather than providing ‘leadership’ to these systems to function in their designated capacities. Do you realize the overload and destruction that is bound to happen? That is exactly what micromanaging does. Do you really know your employees and what they represent in your company? Do you understand their natural potential or are you boxing them into a box you think they fit? Do you know them well enough to provide the best guidance and utilize them in the most strategic ways? These are hard questions employers should try to answer. It’s easy for employees to fall into an identity crisis trap when the person that influences their advancement at work continually misrepresents, misunderstands and (perhaps unknowingly) undermines their capabilities to do more than the basic job description. Allowing your employees to function with your delegated authority will give them room to explore their capabilities and possibly proffer even more creative solutions than you could imagine. Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

 

2. Disruptive Feedback

Feedback is a science and an art. Feedback has the capacity to emotionally incapacitate an otherwise emotionally healthy employee. Rather than inspire an employee to become better and function effectively as a team player, disruptive feedback can make them feel as if they don’t fit in the organization. It is possible for your feedback as a supervisor to disrupt employee performance if you have not mastered the “how” of feedback. Talented employees are seeking ways to be noticed, and want a workplace culture that allows them to express themselves freely. When feedback is improperly given, employees can lose their identity. They can spend too much time being so critical of everything they’re doing so that they can satisfy so many different people – except themselves. We advise that when employees receive feedback, they should be taught to consider the source [knowing why it was said and from what emotional state it is coming from] and filter through so that they can receive feedback constructively without taking a blow to their identities. Disruptive feedback is one of the major reasons employees’ loyalty to the organization is vulnerable.

 

3. Poor Intra-structure

Intrastructure is the basic cultural structure needed to ensure solid chemistry within an organization and seamless interaction among employees themselves and their supervisors as well in order to encourage optimum productivity. When your workplace doesn’t have cultural integrity and intrastructure, it becomes challenging to solidify employee identity. There are two common ways that poor intrastructure is manifested in an organization: 1) an artificial, inauthentic workplace culture dictated by a prescriptive operations manual, rather than the actual experiences of employees; and 2) diversity is undervalued and not viewed as a competitive edge. When intrastructure is not prioritized, it subtly implies that personal identity and its contribution to strengthening the organization’s values is not of importance. A poor intrastructural policy does not reward individual differences and does not create a workplace environment that appreciates uniqueness; rather, it forces employees to conform to the status quo and not tap into their creative energies. It is why mergers and acquisitions cannot be taken lightly. On paper, things are usually well thought out but in actual execution, executives must take the extra effort to ascertain the pulse and cohesion of the different personality types and cultures of the merging entities as it is one of the most critical success factors. With poor intrastructure, you’re underutilizing your employees and creating an unfavourable workplace environment for them and invariably, you. 

 

4. Leadership Identity Crises

A popular Latin Proverb quotes, “it is absurd that a man should rule others, who cannot rule himselfbut this is becoming common in the workplace. It is true that people are a direct reflection of their leader’s actions (or inactions). It is important for every leader, every associate, and every supervisor, to understand who they are and what their personal vision/purpose is as it will help to have a full grasp of their sphere of influence and the role they play in accomplishing the organization’s goals and objectives. When an organization lacks a strong leadership identity, it disrupts the identity of the entire organization – especially its employees. Do you have a full grasp of your leadership identity? Is your organization’s leadership identity in sync with the organization?   Perhaps it’s time for an identity rekindling.

 

5. The Tyranny of The Urgent

Employee Identity can get lost in the urgency of the immediate. It is important to infuse, as organizational culture, the need to ensure that the tyranny of the urgent never replaces what is truly important. Employees must gain mastery in identifying ‘the urgent’ from ‘the important’ and categorizing them appropriately. Urgency can derail one’s focus, and one can lose the consistency and fluidity required for one’s identity to thrive and create sustainable impact. The goal is to influence the advancement and growth of the business by strategic focus and guidance that comes from a place of deep understanding of who you are rather than a reactive non-methodical approach that is a direct response to the sequence of urgencies one has to deal with.

 

Summary 

In the same way that dynamics in the home can fuel a personal identity crisis, this is how the workplace contributes to employee identity crisis. Be aware of the dynamics that are adding fuel to the fire, and don’t let yourself become a replaceable commodity.  This has little chance of happening if the person you think you are, the person others think you are, and the person you really are – are all the same person. In Herbert Swope’s words,  I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: Try to please everybody. Discover you and do you.

HOW TO USE CRISIS TO CONNECT MORE DEEPLY WITH YOUR ADOLESCENT

HOW TO USE CRISIS TO CONNECT MORE DEEPLY WITH YOUR ADOLESCENT

 “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” 

― Brene Brown 

 

You may know that the word crisis originates from the Greek word ‘krisis’ – which means ‘decisive moment’. Crises can, therefore, be seen as an opportunity to either break the communication lines between you and your teenager or strengthen them effectively depending on what decisions you make in that “decisive moment”. Having open lines of communication is what keeps crises from developing into full-blown disasters because, in every home, a crisis or two must occur, but we need to remember that every crisis with your adolescent is also an opportunity further strengthen your relationship. 

Life is full of ups and downs and as our children mature, they discover painfully that good things will not happen to them simply because they are good. It is why we encourage every parent to raise emotionally resilient teenagers. When these crises situations occur, we must have tough conversations with our children, especially adolescents, whether that’s explaining to your teenager why Grandma died or hearing from your twelve-year-old that she was body-shamed in class or having your sixteen-year-old fall apart on the night before his big speech. Whatever the case, when crises occur, the appropriate response is not to shy away from it and pretend it never happened.

Some years ago while counselling a teenage boy, he felt that his mom never really loved his late dad. When I asked why he thought so, he said, “mom never talks about dad. She wasn’t even the one who told me that he died. She doesn’t cry about him. It’s almost as if she has totally erased his existence from her life and moved on”. Of course, I knew this was not true because I had had a prior conversation with his mom where she broke down in tears saying that she could not continue her life without her husband but had to keep going becaue of their son. She wrongly assumed that ignoring that crises would be beneficial to both parties. Eventually, she spoke to her son about it. He got to see his mom very vulnerable with him and they had an intimate bonding process. Both mom and son are doing fine now and they are literally best of friends since all they’ve got is eah other.

As parents, we have been conditioned to always show our strengths while masking our vulnerabilities. If you have taken our course, Engaging The World Of Adolescence, you would have discovered that vulnerability is strength masquerading as weakness and you would have understood how to wield that strength. This article, however, is to [for the benefit of those who haven’t taken the course] show how we can as parents use crises moments to our advantage in order to strengthen the bond between ourselves and our adolescents. Avoiding crises or wishing them away is very destructive not just based on our unconventional parenting guidelines but also from research-based and parent-based feedback. Emotions always need an outlet and  if you don’t give them room to be expresses in a conducive manner, they will come back with a vengeace that cannot be quantified. Crises situations actually give you a chance to connect more deeply with your child, to teach them how to problem-solve with really big problems, and show them how to manage upsetting feelings – a skill they desperately need to learn during adolescence.

How can you help your child in tough conversations? Here are some tips I will share:

  • Listen. Don’t say much, but really pay attention. This creates a psychologically and emotionally safe haven and allows them to know that you value their thoughts. 
  • Empathize. Feel from your child’s perspective. Let him get those feelings out, no matter how upset he is. Remember how you always felt that your parents never truly got you? You don’t want your child feeling this way. 
  • Hold your own awareness that it isn’t the end of the world, even if it feels like it to your adolescent child, but don’t try to talk him out of his upset. Your child needs to learn to own his emotions while developing the adequate skills to find solutions.
  • Problem-Solve. Once your child is less emotional, help him to problem-solve. You can do this by creating scenarios and you both propose possible solutions.

But don’t wait for crises to have the tough conversations you need to have. Think of it as home-schooling, and you’re the teacher. Or therapy, and you’re the therapist. Many parents feel uncomfortable talking with their adolescents about some issues. You owe it to your child to summon up your courage and have those hard talks. And doing so may avoid some the crises. 

Why is it so important to teach your teens and tweens how to have tough conversations? Because close relationships depend on the ability to meet the needs of both people in the relationship and to negotiate the inevitable bumps when those needs conflict. Successfully navigating challenging discussions will bring your family closer, minimize the bumps in your family life, and teach your adolescent a critical life skill – one that’s considerably more important than doing his own laundry. 

Your child’s success throughout life will depend on his ability to navigate difficult interpersonal situations – on his block, at work, in intimate relationships. Adolescents learn how to work things out with other people by doing it. If he learns from you that difficult discussions are to be avoided, he’s more likely to get divorced someday, or be fired. If, on the other hand, he learns from you that people who love each other can disagree but work things out so that both people win, he’s likely to put that skill to use with his peers, in his intimate relationships, and in the rest of his life. 

 

 

Happy Children’s Day fro us all at TSAGE and TBOG Consult

 

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