advertisement
advertisement

Why now is the time to address your languishing teammates

Here’s how to work with your colleagues feeling emotionally drained from the pandemic.

Why now is the time to address your languishing teammates
[Photo: Chroki Chi/Unsplash]

I feel depleted. I can’t come up for air. I’m just going through the motions. I don’t know how long I can keep this up.

advertisement
advertisement

This is languishing in the workforce. If you’re leading people—if your business depends on people performing well—ignore it at your peril.

By now, many know languishing as the “meh” in our COVID-19-narrowed lives, that feeling of empty stagnation at the core of an emotionally draining year. But it isn’t a new concept. Based on BetterUp’s prepandemic research, it impacts up to 55% of employees.

Imagine not just one team member, but more than half of your team, being more irritable, confused, sad, or angry. That doesn’t sound like a place you want to work, does it? In a 2002 study, Emory sociology professor Corey Keyes found, in addition to being at significantly higher risk of sliding into major depression or anxiety, those languishing were more likely to reduce or miss work. It doesn’t stop there. Languishing is a literal drag on interpersonal dynamics, making it harder to maintain productive working relationships or be open to new ideas.

advertisement
advertisement

As a leader of a company, what are you supposed to do about this? Your people are wading through a pandemic fog at just the moment when companies need to be firing on all cylinders. You want to be supportive, but you’re also building a business, and you need your workforce to be productive. Inevitably, things are moving. You need not just productivity but agility and innovation from your teams. Your team may appreciate it if you care about their struggles, but compassionate leaders don’t just sympathize or empathize. They may like you more if you share their struggles.

But as a compassionate leader, the goal should be that your entire team does not have to struggle so much.

  • Make it okay not to be okay. To start, work to understand the diverse needs of your changing workforce, and whether your company culture could better support them and their wellbeing. This could be done through employee surveys, committee meetings and direct feedback from managers and people leaders.
  • Reduce the burden of getting help. Provide tools and personalized support that meet your team where they are to develop their own psychological core and easily get the help they may need on an ongoing basis. Personal growth can drive organizational performance and agility and can be supported at scale with the right partners.
  • Commit to building strong mental fitness. We’ve heard this phrase a lot: “We’re all in this together.” That said, when leaders encourage and inspire the workforce to work on themselves, the results will come. It can be partnering with a mental health solution that can provide support at scale, designating no-meeting blocks of time, workplace flexibility, or providing the resources and time for employees to do things that replenish their mental health.
  • Understand moving beyond languishing is a constant practice, not only a destination. Mental fitness, like physical fitness, is a way of life and an ongoing journey. It takes committing to new practices and is helped by expert coaching and surrounding ourselves with a community of others on the same journey.

Sometimes we can address a stressful circumstance. But, the pandemic has shown that we aren’t fully able to control the political, social, environmental, and market forces that cause change and stress. What you can control is helping your employees build their capacity (which is their mental fitness) or the challenges ahead.

advertisement

Just like going to the gym for our physical health, the psychological skills we build to improve our mental health strengthen our psychological core, shores up our foundation so that we flex and adapt rather than break and languish when the world, or our best customer, or other surprises, present us with new demands. Mental fitness can be developed. And it isn’t a trade-off between employee mental health and performance.


Eddie Medina is the COO of BetterUp.

advertisement
advertisement