It is not hyperbole to say that the entire world is in the throes of macro-level cultural change. We did not get a choice, and we didn’t get any lead time to ponder how to manage a situation that is still quite dynamic. We have to think about everything we are doing in a different way. The changes we are asking our employees to adapt to are just a small part of this holistic change-tsunami.
Even if your business has had very little change, you still have employees who may be frayed by the disruption in the world around them, and that can play itself out in the way they interact with you, their co-workers, or their customers. How do we pro-actively help our team members adapt?
- Education is still a sound strategy. A recent study indicates that almost 20% of American adults get their news primarily from social media, and only 37% of those users are following updates on COVID19. Add to that the disinformation that is on these platforms and you can see our opportunity.
Connect the dots. Share science-based information about how the virus is impacting your local community, and update regularly what we are learning about transmission and prevention and how that relates to your business. Encourage employees to reference reputable sources for their COVID19 information. The more informed they are, the less these life-changes look like an inconvenience due to an invisible boogeyman and the more like common sense given what we are dealing with.
- Model behavior. It may sound obvious, but you have to be impeccably consistent with back-to-work protocols. Regardless of any rumored safe-harbor, we have a moral and legal obligation to do everything in our power to keep people safe, and this has to be our messaging around these expectations. We can be compassionate, but there is no place for “sorta” following protocols.
- Listen first, then talk it out. If you have an employee who has overt or passive resistance, it is time for a one-on-one. Learn where it is coming from. You cannot make someone care if they feel they are not at risk, but acknowledging that it is perfectly normal to be angry or frustrated about all this disruption is important especially when everyone is telling them that adapting is not optional. We cannot pretend that this is not a painful experience.
Enlist their support by asking them to take responsibility for one of the new workplace standards, or including them in ongoing discussions about safety in the workplace. Being in charge of something helps restore a feeling of control at a time when many are feeling helpless.
Looking forward, all indicators suggest that we still have a considerable amount of change on the horizon. The only thing that is certain right now is we will continue to be called upon to adapt. Your leadership should be a constant.