Leadership Spotlight

Appreciating Others’ Burdens

A stock image of an upset businessman sitting at his desk.

Depression; loneliness; serious injury; chronic and terminal sickness; family members with special needs; Alzheimer’s and dementia; alcoholism; drug addiction; recovery and relapse; death of a spouse, parent, or other family member; death of a friend, coworker, or acquaintance; miscarriage; suicide; financial problems; unemployment; eviction; physical and sexual assault; domestic violence; child abuse; hunger; failures at school; bullying; underage drinking; relationship issues; marital difficulties and divorce; deployment; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); shame; guilt; elderly parents; legal issues; pornography; gambling...the list goes on.

Take another look at the examples in the list and try to see how many of those terms you can associate with your own life or the lives of family members, close friends, or people in your social circle. Chances are, you can find several that relate directly to your own life, and it is probably fair to say that no one is immune from these situations and circumstances that affect individuals each day. People carry these burdens of life with them to varying degrees, and, to some extent, such issues can define who we are.

One word intentionally left off the list is work. Just as these various circumstances affect us, they also impact every one of our coworkers—subordinates, peers, and superiors alike. These are the problems we all show up with when reporting to our jobs. We and our coworkers are surrounded by and dealing with the repercussions of these issues all day, every day, and they wait for us when we get home each night.

With this in mind, ask yourself if you will do your part to ensure that work does not have to be just another problem for the people you serve with. As a leader, when you come in every day, do you strive to let your colleagues know they are appreciated and valued and that you understand the challenges and battles they face in their personal lives? Does the atmosphere and environment you create help your coworkers enjoy coming to work every day? Or, conversely, are you a person who unnecessarily adds to their burden and throws even more stress onto the pile they already carry?

Mr. Bertrand, an instructor in the Leadership Programs and Instruction Unit at the FBI Academy and a retired supervisory special agent, prepared this Leadership Spotlight. He can be reached at epbertrand@fbi.gov.