It was mid-afternoon on a Friday when my colleague and I were troubleshooting a problem with some of his code. He seemed a little down, but In my role as a systems administrator, I was happy to help any way I could. While we were waiting for something to finish running, I was making small talk and asked what he was doing that weekend. He said that he and his wife would be celebrating their anniversary, “but I will probably mess that up too.”
My heart sunk. It was clear that he was in a bad place as far as his confidence for his work was concerned. We’ve probably all had our low moments, and it’s certainly not the place of a co-worker to play amateur psychologist. Still, no one of us can do our best work when our confidence is flagging. We cannot afford to waste anyone, and when someone has let their work affect their self-esteem (or vice-versa), we shouldn’t be reluctant to come along side that person with an encouraging word.
Most people have colleagues to whom they look to for inspiration. This may or may not be someone in a direct managerial line, but, we instinctively know when someone needs a pat on the back or kind word (or a figurative kick in the pants for that matter). I can’t tell you the number of times in my career that I’ve lifted my chin a little higher and quickened my step when someone, a peer or manager, has encouraged me.
Lest you think I’m referring to some artificial or contrived sentiment, let me make it clear: pretty much everyone is hired because of some talent they’ve evidenced. Sometimes, folks just need to be reminded about that talent. Take some time periodically to think about someone who might benefit from an encouraging word.