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Conversations that Matter – Humanising the Workplace

Gallup recently put out the results of a survey around worker wellbeing.  The US-based study revealed that less than 25% of people surveyed believed their employer cared about their wellbeing.  Less than one in four.  A less than human workplace.

Their report suggests that this “finding has significant implications, as work and life have never been more blended and employee wellbeing matters more than ever– to employees and the resiliency of organizations.”

I work in the space of workplace culture.  Partnering with leaders and their people to develop workplace cultures where people grow and thrive.  Importantly, where they can bring their whole selves to work.  Conversations around this are maturing.  From a starting point of trust as a foundation for team success, we are moving into conversations around group psychological safety.  What does this mean?  Well, where leaders and their teams are comfortable and feel safe fully opening up.  Being vulnerable and authentic.  Including their emotional culture.  How people are feeling at work.

Using the #emotionalculturedeck has highlighted some great learnings and some tips to get started:

We don’t talk about ‘emotions’ at work. 

Without exception I have teams tell me they don’t discuss feelings or emotions at work.  They are more comfortable discussing tasks, and stuff that needs to get done.  Step into “how do you feel about that?” eyes shift, and people look down, look away.  This is an indicator to me that we need to step into that area of discomfort to fully unlock the whole story.

Start Small

Introducing ‘emotion’ centered conversations to a whole team for the first time can be tricky.  People can be hesitant and hold back.  Start small.

  • One-to-one, the #emotionalculturedeck is a great tool to open up a conversation… about anything. Conflict; leader relationship; a specific issue.
  • Small groups: Use a placeholder question like “how are we feeling about this change?”. People are more likely to share in a small group.  Then have one share back from each group.  A common reflection is “I’m not the only one feeling like this”.

Leaders go First

Simon Sinek talks about ‘Leaders eat Last’.  When it comes to creating permission and safety around emotional reveal, leaders go first.   This creates the right conditions and environment for people to follow. Then go to your advocates in the room, those who are comfortable opening up. This gives permission to the quieter, hesitant people to follow.

Emotional Literacy

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”  Ludwig Wittgenstein

 Most of us lack the breadth of language to describe how we feel.  Using the #emotionalculturedeck play cards I notice three things happening.

  • The first is people will bring up 2-3 cards that best describe their feelings about something.
  • The second is they will voice “I wouldn’t have thought of those words”.
  • The third is that people tend to be more comfortable sharing the story, the why behind the card when they are holding the card.

Building Momentum

Starting small, creating the right conditions for people to feel safe in opening up builds the platform for integrating feelings-centered conversations into the team DNA.  Here are  just a few questions you can play with.

  • How do I want to feel, not feel, at work to be successful? (self-awareness)
  • How do we want our team environment to feel?
  • How do we want to feel, not feel, as we journey through this change?
  • How do we want new people to our team to feel?
  • How don’t we want people to feel, but if experienced would serve as important warning signs that the team needs to address?
  • Team check-ins: how are we tracking as a team?
  • How do we want our customers, our stakeholders, to feel in their engagement with us?

When I reflect on the Gallup survey it strikes me that if leaders and organisations focused on building cultures where people can talk about what they think and feel that question around “cares about my wellbeing” would be in the holy grail of 70-80% satisfaction.  That’s got to be good for everyone.

Curious to find out more?  If you have questions or want to chat about how you can humanise your workplace culture, feel free to reach out for a chat.  I’ll bring my cards with me

Here are some other ways you can learn more about The Emotional Culture Deck:

#emotionalculturedeck #proelephantrider #ridersandelephants #emotionalculture

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