/valɪˈdeɪʃ(ə)n/ – the process of learning about, understanding, and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotional experience
One of the conversations I often have with organisations is about validating the experiences of their employee’s. When conflict in the work environment leads to one person taking stress leave, it is important to validate the stressed person’s perspective, regardless of who or what has resulted in the conflict.
The issue is not about who is right and who is wrong.
The problem is that our society takes a legal approach to validation, we often want to find one person is right and one person is wrong. It is actually this approach that causes the biggest problem, because rather than accepting a person’s perspective of a given situation, we seek to overlay our own perspective. This approach isn’t helpful. In reality, if a person perceives that they are in a situation in which they are so stressed that they cannot be in the workplace, then we just need to validate that person’s experience.
One of the biggest challenges in HR areas and injury management units is that we often put ourselves in that person’s shoes and try and decide whether we agree that they should feel that way or not. It’s human nature. However, it is not our role or place to do so.
It is not appropriate for us to decide whether or not we agree with that person’s perception. Their perception is exactly that – it’s their perception, and we have to manage that.
In order to move forward and attain a solution for the person’s stressful experience, it is essential that we validate a person’s it, regardless of how we believe that we might feel in those same circumstances. In reality, we can not actually determine if we would feel as stressed as this person is saying that they are, because we are not them.
Our role is to support them in what they are telling us they feel. We don’t have to agree with whether we would feel that way ourselves in the same situation or not. It seems unreasonable that we are so used to judging people and trying to put ourselves in another person’s position to determine if that would be how we would feel.
It is not about you or your experience – it is about them and their experience.
The key to actually engaging stressed workers and getting them back to work quicker has to do with validating how they are feeling about their experience, just as they communicate it to you.
It is really hard as human beings to pull back from putting yourself in another person’s position. To show empathy we always say “You have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”. In certain circumstance, yes, we absolutely do. However, we should not if it means that you’re going to invalidate the experience that they’re telling you they are having.
To be solutions focussed we first require a clear understanding of the problem – listen and understand THEIR perspective. Then ask them to help you resolve the problem for them and give them what they ask for. If that is a temporary reassignment to a different work area – do it. This will allow them to Recover At Work (RAW). Maintaining their engagement in the work environment, in any capacity, will reduce any likely workers compensation claim and improve their chances of a speedy recovery.
It may seem like a really simple thing, but you would be surprised at how many problems are caused in organisations because we judge somebody else based on our own experiences.
And in reality, we don’t have any right too.