A recent article in UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center Magazine explains how acknowledging emotions in the workplace can help build trust between employees. Emotional acknowledgment can be as simple as noticing a frown and mentioning it with a straightforward and supportive comment: “You look upset. How’s everything going?” This can also be done with a more upbeat interaction when you notice a coworker laughing or smiling.
The article highlights research conducted by Alisa Yu, a PhD student at Stanford University, Justin M. Berg, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, and Julian Zlatev, an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. They discovered higher levels of trust between people who engaged in emotional acknowledgment in their work environment. They also found that acknowledging the emotional state is more beneficial than only discussing situations. For example, Alison Yu explains, “It turns out that saying something like, ‘You looked upset after that meeting. How are you feeling about it?’ lands better than saying something like, ‘It looked like the meeting went poorly. How are you thinking about it?’”
Now is a particularly good time to adopt emotional acknowledgment as a regular practice in your center or program, as a way to acknowledge the struggles many colleagues may have in managing their work-life balance. Those who have been working remotely may be especially uneasy as they anticipate the call to return to their workplaces and an uncertain future.