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How to handle pity/encouragement at work

Hello guys,

Experience

In my line of work, we have to write discharge letters for patients. I already talked about it. These are long, technical documents. So they ask a lot of energy, time and concentration. And it never ends. So it's one of the challenging part of the job.

Yesterday, my colleague told in front of other colleagues: "I wish you courage with your letters" (rough translation from french, we use "good courage" as a way of encouraging one another). However, emotionally there was a distance. There was no warmth in it. So I think it was an actual power moves as if to say: "John is late with his discharge letters, he's not as good of a resident as you think he is". I answered "thank you" as I mistaken it for a real encouragement. However, unfortunately this resident mom A. is insecure about her skills and has quite low self-esteem. So I think she might feel inferior towards me. She does not know I'm 10 years older than her or she would feel less insecure, but that's not the point.

Analysis

This is a common instance: a co-worker will wish you "the best", "good luck", or "a lot of courage" with a task you're supposed to do.

It could be genuinely supportive if there is friendship AKA high-collaboration, high-trust, high respect and high warmth between you. Still, if there are people around, it could be be a power move.

Lucio would say (I think): "and even there, it is still a power move". Yes, it is because there's a change in power dynamics: we were equals and now he/she's above.

Behavior change

Next time, I will say: "don't worry about it, it's going to be all good." It's a rejection of the pity/encouragement frame. I used it a few times already. However, sometimes I like to welcome encouragement from co-workers as it is a sign of caring for one another. I do it as well, but as an equal. We all need and like emotional support from time to time.

Matthew Whitewood and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodTransitioned

I do encounter this from time to time as well.

Behavior change

Next time, I will say: "don't worry about it, it's going to be all good." It's a rejection of the pity/encouragement frame. I used it a few times already. However, sometimes I like to welcome encouragement from co-workers as it is a sign of caring for one another. I do it as well, but as an equal. We all need and like emotional support from time to time.

What do you think about this remark?

Thanks, it's great that we can encourage each other.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

In this context, I would not use it personally. To me, it would sound weird: in this context I did not encourage her back. So it's not really the case that we encouraged each other. If someone would say this to me in this case, I would ask them why they're saying this. In this case I would rather say:

Thanks, and courage/good luck/all the best with your [insert task]

Which is mirroring the encouragement and brings us back to the same level.

After that you could add:

I think it's great that we can encourage each other in this team.

At this moment, it would work. Because that is what did happen. And then it's setting a collaborative frame from a pity frame. This is very leader-like. It's not one-upping either. It's a positive interpretation of what just happened.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

I see what you mean.
You could do mirroring first, followed by a collaborative frame.

If you have worked with her before and encouraged her in previous instances, going directly to the collaborative comment could work.

I wanted to convey

Thanks, it's great that we can encourage each other from time to time.

Rather than

Thanks, it's great that we are encouraging each other in this challenging situation.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Nice work guys - repped and added to my notes.  I'm just playing with words now and it might not fit the Swiss medical culture.  I find with lady colleagues they use superlatives - great not good, we're excited not we're happy to...etc.  So to add some additional warmth you could say:

"That's one of the things I LOVE about this team how we encourage each other".

In Australia this stuff helps the roses grow.

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