Countenance as states is appearance, especially the look or expression of the face. Merriam-Webster states:  facial appearance regarded as an indication of mood or feeling. The verb form countenanced or countenancing means to approve, support, permit, tolerate, encourage.  You should have countenanced his rudeness is proper to say yet so improper to do. You should have countenanced his helpfulness is much better, yet if most of us spoke in this formal way we might get a few interesting views of countenance from those around us. 

Executives and Construction Managers with the ability to notice a change in countenance with those they work with and who work for them oftentimes correlates to their ability to address potential relationship issues quicker than others who do not take notice.  A new or established employee who is typically joyful at work who is out of sorts may continue to press in and do their work and so that is what is observed. Yet, if whatever is causing the change in countenance is not addressed to restore their countenance to the positive, the issue may not work itself out. Not giving a person a little of your time to address, could turn into a lot of your time and resources required to restore their countenance and the overall workplace to the half full instead of half empty state.  Acknowledging you noticed a change shows your care and concern for the individuals you work with beyond just what they do for their responsibilities on the job.

A good analogy to compare with is your gas tank.  When you glance at your gas tank and see it half full you may or may not decide to top off the tank.  If you decide not to it then moves to an indicator light showing tank is getting low.  If you let it go all the way towards empty you may find reduction in power, sputtering or you ran out of gas all together.  Just like with your vehicle of choice, your teammates each have different size tanks and overall components under the hood.  Some may be able to run longer on a half tank and others it could take into complete break-down. Breakdown computes to poor work product, countenance change in others around them, extended time off, or resignation to name a few.

For some managers, the ability to recognize and address change in countenance has been accomplished or comes naturally. With others of you it may require conscious effort to develop eyes for countenance in the workplace.  How do you do that?

  1. A simple “is everything all right” can go a long way.  Do it with genuineness, one on one, and when you are able to give enough time to allow them to open-up if they chose to.  That doesn’t mean calling them out in front of others or to a formal meeting, but with direct eye contact directly with them to get an initial response to identify if they even notice their own countenance has changed and can identify it themselves. From there you know whether to take behind closed doors or address right there based on your surroundings.
  2.  It is okay to say back.  “I am sorry you are experiencing this”, “thank you for sharing this with me,” “ I was not aware of this”, or whatever deems appropriate at the moment to acknowledge your appreciation for them helping you identify what has changed with them.  
  3. Once you acknowledge state, if something needs your attention, communicate your timing to make time to address. This could be as simple as “ I would like for you to take the rest of the day for yourself and we will cover for you” and we will get together to talk tomorrow, or it may be “Would it be okay if we addressed further at (name when) so I can give you my undivided attention to do so?  
  4. Make sure you keep your commitment to ascertain and if others are involved with the success of the resolution, you follow-up to ensure their part was handled correctly.
  5. Observe countenance has been restored at the proper time and comment once it consistently is, to how it is nice to see them well again. 

You, me and everyone in the workplace present countenance displayed with our motivators and stressors. My assistant says she can tell by my countenance when I am concentrating on a phone call or email as it speaks to – concentrating intently, and she doesn’t want to distract me, yet sometimes I need her to get my attention to assist in keeping me on schedule, so we discussed how to do so for her comfort in the approach.

Executives this time of year may see someone’s countenance change and it could be as much as they miss their loved ones, they will not be with over the holidays or could be financial or relational stressors they don’t even realize are affecting their countenance at work.  Conscientious employees can develop negative countenance if they are taking PTO setting off the wrong vibe for their temporary time off with their co-workers.  Whatever triggers the countenance change, leaders can assist in alleviating the burden in the workplace and may even find if they do it for others, they will see the same done in return for them in their time of need. 

Countenance is part of any relationship.     

Do you know executives and managers who observe countenance well?  Do you?

To Eyes Open In The Workplace,

Suzanne Breistol 


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