Feeling Seen at Work Creates Trust

Researchers from Stanford and Harvard University tested how recognition of emotions leads to more trust between leaders and employees.

Their findings showed that acknowledging someone else’s feelings – especially negative ones – can help trust to develop even among widely dispersed teams.

While many managers and leaders were taught to avoid emotion in the workplace, those days are gone. Employees expect to be cared about, seen, and heard as their whole selves.

The future of work requires checking in with employees sincerely and genuinely. Even expressing that someone looks like they are having a stressful time, or just speaking one to one to see how someone is really doing during these difficult times makes a big difference.

The research showed that:

Workers trust colleagues who acknowledge negative emotions. Participants in the study were more likely to trust coworkers that acknowledged their emotions, even negative ones.

Ignoring emotions lessens trust. In five different studies, the findings showed that people consistently rated people who commented on their negative emotions as more trustworthy. In fact, they were rated as 20% higher in one of the studies!

Recognizing someone else’s emotions, as well as speaking up honestly, feels risky to both leaders and followers.  

However, just showing that you are willing to take the time to ask, or help someone going through a tough time, signals your  humanity.  

It does get easier for both as a relationship builds up over time honestly.

Empathetic leaders can develop that bond of trust when they let employees know that it is safe to speak up and understand that we have all been affected by the pandemic in one way or another.

Allowing an employee to speak up ~ instead of filling the conversation with superficialities, silencing, or avoidance when people feel frustrated or distressed ~ is how to apply conscious empathy that is beneficial to the individual, leader, and organization.