A Guest Post By Haley Epping, Masters Student At American University, FEEL Blog Post Winner
The essence of the FEEL method is prioritizing communication and recognizing your feelings. Since our human nature is to be social beings, it is extremely useful to discuss the best communication method with your colleagues at work. Here is a six-step plan to help you and your co-workers implement the FEEL model into your workplace.
To complete this roadmap, plan a time with your colleagues when you can have an uninterrupted opportunity to discuss and be open with each other. After planning that time, make sure everyone completes the FEEL test and brings the results or a general idea of them to the meeting.
At the first meeting, be sure to set some ground rules such as privacy agreements surrounding colleagues sharing results and feelings. It is crucial that everyone is comfortable and is open to learning. Constructive feedback can be very helpful, but in this case, limiting the amount of direct criticism is useful to ensure no one feels offended or attacked.
The first step of this roadmap is to discuss preferred ways of communicating. Since not everyone will communicate the same way, holding space to learn about your co-workers is an essential first step. In the FEEL First eBook on how generations face fears, the results showed that Millennials generally “prefer consistent and ongoing feedback and access to higher level meetings where they can state their ideas” (p. 11). If you are a Millennial, your boss may not know this is how you feel and will not provide this feedback due to generational differences. This is when miscommunication can occur because if a boss, who is a baby boomer, does not know that their staff wants consistent feedback and does not provide it. Millennials may assume they are not doing their job well. Instead, the boss does not think consistent feedback is necessary. In this space, hearing colleagues share their feelings creates a closer connection, which may make it easier to communicate more effectively in the future.
The second step is to share examples of past communication failures. This can be done in two ways. First, the group can share constructive criticism about miscommunications between colleagues that are a part of the discussion. Another option is to describe miscommunications at your past jobs. Sharing examples gives people tangible stories to remember for the future, and it can be a therapeutic space for those telling the anecdote. These previous miscommunications may have occurred between two people of different generations, which would also provide more context for why the FEEL model is crucial. In my experience, many of my bosses who are older, millennial or boomer generations, do not use praise on a consistent basis. Instead, they wait until the annual review or if I asked for a mid-year review. In their minds, I am not doing a bad job, they may think I am doing great, but they do not go out of their way to tell me if there is not time devoted to feedback. Because of this, I think I need to change what I am doing to receive positive feedback. This is a clear miscommunication and stems from our different generational upbringings.
After sharing past negative experiences, the third step is to describe times where you have had clear and successful communication with a co-worker. Similarly, to the second step, these stories may be about current co-workers or past colleagues. Both narratives will provide value to this discussion. These stories may provide some comfort for those who have communicated in similar ways, or it could provide ideas to those who need to improve their communication.
Moving forward to the facing fears portion of FEEL, the fourth step is to discuss workplace fears. This can be a difficult step since it aims for people to be vulnerable, but it is critical. Sharing fears will allow colleagues to be empathetic with each other, which is another tenant of FEEL. This step also can provide comfort if other co-workers have similar fears or have in the past. Colleagues can collaborate on ways for others to conquer their fears and provide their own anecdotal advice.
Also, if there are various levels of management within this group, allowing upper management to learn about their staff’s worries could help them be more empathetic in the future. This can also make hierarchies less rigid in the future, which would lead to a greater flow of communication. According to FEEL data, only 15% of participants said they always stepped out of their comfort zone professionally. This means there is a lot of room for improvement for all generations. Challenging oneself can be extremely difficult and stressful, but when you are able to discuss these worries with co-workers, it allows you to hear other perspectives and hopefully receive reassurance.
After sharing all this information, positive and negative examples of communication, and fears in the workplace, the fifth step is to make a plan. This plan must be concrete and include perspectives from everyone involved. The goal of this plan is to create specific ways that your group can improve communication in the workplace. To ensure that everyone can see this plan, create it in a shared document or email the final version to everyone afterwards. One of the goals may look like this: After (colleague’s name) shares final products with me, I will provide feedback within 2 days. This feedback will include positive reactions and, if needed, constructive criticism. This is a specific goal that can be implemented on a semi-regular schedule and does not need to wait for end of the year performance reviews. In this plan, be sure to include a fear that everyone would like to overcome. It may be hard for people to write it down publicly, so an alternative could be to encourage them to write it on their personal computer.
Once a few months have passed since creating the plan, the final step is to create a time for the group to check-in. This time allows everyone to share if they think the group’s communication has improved, and what can be done to enhance communication further. Look back at the plan that was made last time to see if these written goals were achieved, or if they need to be modified. If they were not attained, discuss what the roadblock was. In addition to the interpersonal communication goals, ask everyone if they conquered a fear in the workplace. Reiterate that this is a judgement-free zone where people can speak freely about their successes or shortcomings.
Discussing fears may be difficult, especially if they were unable to conquer it, so remember to be supportive and, if possible, suggest advice for the future. Even though it may be difficult to continue group meetings on a regular basis, these check-ins can allow the staff to have a space to improve communication and work towards overcoming their workplace fears. It also provides an opportunity to change communication styles easily if necessary. Working on these goals will greatly strengthen your team’s collaboratively, emotional well-being, and efficiency in the long term.
Haley Epping is a Masters student at American University studying Strategic Communications with a focus in Digital Communication Strategies & Analytics.