This post is part of our peer counselor Q&A series which shares the perspectives of our talented volunteers. Tracy is an Empower Work peer counselor and a human resources professional focusing on engagement, development, and leadership.
What inspired you to become a volunteer?
I believe every employee deserves the opportunity to have a safe, compassionate, and unbiased support to discuss their work issues without fear of retribution.
What was the most valuable part of the training experience for you?
Training included many valuable tools to help peer counselors prepare, including hands-on practice. Though the most powerful lesson was a self-reflective exercise that asked each volunteer to consider and identify their own biases. The exercise reminds us that as counselors we have to meet our texters where they are––and to not let our own biases interfere with helping them discover their own solution.
What has surprised you most?
I'm surprised at how invested I become when someone opens up about a bad, troubling, and emotional work situation. The amount of trust and vulnerability people bring inspires me to dig deep and do my best to partner with them discovering their path forward, and help them develop the confidence to take their first steps towards their ideal outcome.
How has your volunteer experience changed how you operate at work and/or in your life?
I’ve had the opportunity to directly apply some of the lessons I've learned through my volunteer experience in my career. For example, I incorporated a bias training across my organization. I've also changed my coaching approach when working with managers and employees––I now work harder to help them develop their own solutions rather than simply providing answers.
What are your top three takeaways?
Listen. Give someone time and space to share their story without interruption. Empower Work's text/web-based platform creates an environment that does just that––plus it allows users the ability to set the pace of the conversation.
Empathy. Validating texters’ feelings can be just what they need to move beyond their feelings and begin to work through the issues at hand.
Discovery. Don't assume you know what someone wants or needs. My role is to provide a supportive environment within which texters can explore options, discover their own answers, and create a plan to move forward.
What would you tell other people thinking about becoming volunteers?
Every conversation I have is a meaningful and rewarding experience. Helping someone transition from a frustrating and devastating work experience at the start of a conversation into a clear, organized, and committed plan by the end of the chat is a powerful experience.