Managing an employee with a health crisis is not easy. You're balancing your need for the team to be productive and caring with your desire to not come off as a non-caring a*^hole. It's not an easy balance.
But did you know that by showing empathy to your employee in crisis, you can improve engagement, increasing discretionary output, so you could see everyone getting MORE work done? And did you know it's not as complex or complicated as you think?
According to an article in Forbes, 96% of employees believe showing empathy is vital to advance employee retention. Yet 92% feel it is undervalued at work. In addition, 92% of CEOS feel their organization is empathetic, but only 50% of their employees say their CEO is empathetic.
While empathy should start at the top, don't wait for your CEO in order to show your employee in a health crisis you care. Here are three simple questions you can ask that can drive empathy.
#1 How are you feeling right now?
The how-are-you-feeling question is a crappy question. It's too big and expectant. When you ask it of your employee, it's like you're expecting them to give you the low-down on what it's like to deal with their crisis. And frankly, it's a bit intrusive. With a hand on the shoulder, most people ask big pity eyes, and the voice filled with a condescending "I'm-here-for-you" tone. But, when you add "right now," it changes the tone. It stops the employee in their tracks and makes them think. It makes the employee feel heard. One caveat, when you ask, be prepared to listen.
#2 Can we talk about how we can make sure you're working on projects you want and taking care of yourself simultaneously?
Oh my! Ask this question, and you just gained a loyal employee. Most managers make the mistake of assuming that the employee with the health crisis can't or won't want to work on demanding projects. In that error of thinking, they reassign the duties to other team members. This makes the employee with a health crisis feel undervalued and not seen.
It's also just cruel, even if your intention is kind. And it makes for awkward team dynamics.
It's ok to be worried about the projects you're responsible for working on. But include the employee in your worry. If you complete and revisit a work plan, you and your employee will have lots of opportunities to work through this concern, and you will gain a super, duper loyal employee too!
#3 Do you have any feedback for me on how I could manage this situation better?
There is an art to managing, and asking for feedback is one of the most critical parts. It's humbling to admit you don't' have it all figured out. But neither does the employee with a health crisis. When you ask this question, you are essentially saying, "I want to be a better person for you." And who doesn't love a manager striving to be a better manager and wants feedback to get there!
Look, being a good manager is not rocket science, but it is challenging and requires emotional intelligence and introspection. Showing up as a human being when your employee is dealing with cancer or any other health crisis is a reusable skill throughout your career and in your personal life! Their crisis can be an opportunity for your growth. But for heaven's sake, do not tell them that!