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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The importance of a supportive leader

Rika Kayama

Lately, I find myself dwelling over how important superiors at companies are. That is to say, I am not thinking about myself in particular. I mean that's the feeling I get working with my patients in the examination room.

    Let me give the example of a hypothetical man we'll call Takashi. Consider him to be one of the many similar company workers that I have met at my practice, shall we?

    Takashi is always the target of his superior's anger at a company where he has worked for over 10 years, and this has led to him losing self-confidence and developing depression. As he wanted his boss to come to our session, I got permission from the boss themself and had them join us in the consultation room. When that happened, the superior made complaints about Takashi such as, "He can't even do the work of someone who just joined the company three years ago" and "Even though I warn him time and time again, he still makes mistakes." At the end of all of this, the boss says, "I don't think Takashi has an illness, I think he just lacks determination."

    I explain that this has nothing to do with willpower, and Takashi's brain has been slightly damaged by the stress and has developed depression, but the boss wouldn't listen to what I had to say.

    What eventually led to a change for Takashi came the following year, when the boss was moved during a personnel shift and a different person took their place. That person as well visited one of our sessions.

    "Takashi always has good ideas. Sometimes during meetings, he'll say something that sparkles," the superior said, pointing out Takashi's strengths. "It is only my first year in this department, and if we just write down our day-to-day work in the daily report and work together based on that, then I think things will be fine," they said with a smile.

    At those words, I saw a look of relief on Takashi's face that was completely new to me. After that, he started to recover quickly, and even said that he had "come to understand the appeal" of his work. His new boss even said, "I received a lot of information from my predecessor, but there have been no problems whatsoever."

    So in this hypothetical situation, what was the difference between Takashi's former and current bosses? The former only pointed out weaknesses, and concluded with an abstract request for Takashi to just exert more willpower. The new superior, however, first identified the things that he was doing well, and then gave him a concrete suggestion to make a daily report. Those two things can be said to be the biggest difference between the two.

    Of course, in the workplace, it shouldn't be expected that bosses constantly shower their workers with compliments all the time. Once bosses become tired themselves, they slip into psychological explanations, and end up yelling, "Get yourself together! Be more careful!" However, the only situation where those orders will wake up employees and magically compel them to be able to do work again is in comics.

    December is a period where we all become busy. But it's not about "spirit" or "willpower," it is about saying, "Why don't you try doing this or that?" and then praising someone with a "good job" if you can. Why don't you give this simple method of guidance a try at your company as well?

    (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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