People will Remember How You Treated Them During COVID-19
A friend of mine got laid off last Friday. Clients in education are developing three plans for the fall of 2020, but most of their work could be irrelevant. Other clients are figuring out how to bring people back to the office.
People will remember how you treated them during COVID-19.
Leading people through stress:
Leadership opportunity is about the people.
#1. Stay connected to laid off people.
It might feel awkward but call your laid off people once a week.
- How are you doing?
- How’s the family?
- What can I do for you?
Send an email newsletter that keeps laid off people in the loop. Include pictures, business updates, and stories.
Create a team within your organization that cares for laid off people.
#2. Remind people of past strength and grit.
Provide time to discuss strategies used when facing challenges in the past. Ask team members some of the following questions.
- What challenges have you worked through in the past?
- How did you persist?
- What did you learn?
- What’s different about you because you worked through past adversity?
- How might we be better people because we worked through current stresses?
- What will be different about you as a person when this is over?
Leading through uncertainty is leading with forward-facing kindness.
#3. Realize that long-term uncertainty increases stress.
What might you do to mitigate stress?
- Acknowledge stress. Don’t sweep it under the rug. You’re stressed and so is your team.
- Include staff in leading short stress-management activities. Someone on your staff works-out at their desk. Perhaps leading a short “home office” workout on zoom might help.
- Remember the good ole days – nostaligize. Surprisingly, talking about the good ole days strengthens connection and lowers stress.
Tip: You might limit your time watching rating mongers on cable news.
Leadership is all about people, now more than ever.
How might leaders navigate the nagging stress caused by persistent uncertainty, both for their team members and themselves?
Wolfgang Puck on Leading His Restaurants Through the Pandemic (HBS)
Leading Through a Crisis (PSA)
Stress Management for Leaders Responding to a Crisis (APA)
1. Decide not to live in fear.
2. Re-frame “uncertainty” –We are nor sure what will happen. There will be some challenges and problems we haven’t imagined but there will also be some great opportunities we need to be open to.
3. Each day, focus on three things that you appreciate.
Thanks Paul. Practical and actionable! Perhaps it all begins with choosing courage over fear. When courage is the way we face fear, not the way to eliminate fear, it seems to free us to move forward.
To stay in touch with and reduce my Team’s stress, we hold virtual Happy Hours where we discuss personal stuff, sports, tell stories, tell bad jokes and interact as we would if we were all in a tavern. Very beneficial to my Team and I and keeps us engaged and close.
Thanks Sam. Good call. It’s the personal stuff that seems to have greater meaning than it did before COVID.
Our organization is Christian, and we take time to pray to re-connect with God, our mission, and one another.
Thanks Victor. Prayer, morning quiet time, breathing, stretching, all come to mind. However, the “together” aspect of your comment is also powerful.
Since my whole team works remotely, even if I haven’t anything new to say, I send a “Good morning!” email first thing and ask everyone to let me know how they’re doing when they have a chance. It keeps us connected, similar to daily check-ins at the office.
Thanks Rocky. So simple, yet a morning ritual adds stability during uncertainty. I’ve also noticed that a morning ritual is one way to begin the day with small wins.
It feels good to check off an item on the list and move to the next.
Thank you for this thoughtful post, Dan. It’s an aspect of leadership I had never considered before, that of keeping tabs on laid-off workers to continue the relationships that will help everyone move forward successfully, even if the company is not able to hire back the workers in the future. It’s that outward-looking, people-centered philosophy of leadership you have been writing about recently, much needed and much appreciated. Thanks for providing leadership that demonstrates what you are saying in your posts.
Thanks cedar. Believe it or not, it was Jack Welch that advocated for taking care of people you terminate. I just amplified his idea a bit.
I have clients who had to layoff people. It’s been useful for them to keep those folks “in the loop.” And you’re right, it doesn’t matter if you ever hire them back. You have a good relationship with people and that’s worth a lot these days.
We have carried on working the same as before. It has taken a lot of ingenuity and flexibility to implement social distancing when the office accommodation model was derived from that used by sardine canners. What has been most challenging is dealing with the level of stark terror that Covid has raised in some colleagues. When you go into an office and there is a look of sheer, naked fear on peoples’ faces, simply because you might enter the room.
Thanks Mitch. I can’t help reflect on the pain of fear and what it means to interact with people who are fearful. I wonder if kindness means even more during distress?
I always enjoy your posts and the follow-up comments. I like to share your articles with all our team to help develop our group leadership skills. Thank you for sharing such a wide variety of topics, views and insights.
Thanks for the good word, Chris. I appreciate you sharing. Here’s to continued opportunity to grow and serve.
Do you think contacting people and asking them how they are doing while they are laid off will be patronizing and make them more upset? I understand that your heart is in the right place, but if put in their shoes I might not take it as well as it is intended. I do whole heartedly agree that how we treat people during covid-19 will stick with them forever, I just think we need to make sure to show empathy and be genuine. I thoroughly enjoy your blog everyday!
Thanks Meal. Great question. My experience has been positive. It might depend on how people were laid off. Another factor is how relational an organization is before the layoffs.
An aloof management style would make kindness seem condescending.
The feedback I get from clients is good. They hadn’t thought of keeping in contact with laid off team members. When they do, the team members are thankful.
However, your suggestion that this be genuine is essential. Frankly, if we don’t genuinely care for people, we shouldn’t be in management.
Glad you jumped in. You raise an important topic.
Love your work Dan.
I strive to keep connected with my team in this strange new world.
We have morning stand-ups, weekly mini team coffee catch-ups (with both remote and office workers), Friday afternoon virtual drinks (themed for Easter, Queen’s birthday etc). My team is based in New Zealand & we have other people in Australia and the USA son time zones need to be kept in mind. We also have other regular sessions such as one on ones, strategy discussions, product presentations and training. And monthly social club is up and running again now too.
Staying connected and maintaining an awesome culture is very important to the whole company. Open communication channels also work well.
Thanks Sarah. Multiple time zones is a huge challenge to keeping connected. It’s encouraging to read your comment are see that you, your team, and your company are working hard to have a great place to work. Best wishes
I am one of those people who never, ever expected to lose her job because of Covid-19, but I did. I know it was the right decision for the organization, and I believe I handled it with grace. The poor way in which our leaders communicated their decision, however, has created disillusionment and distrust amongst my former colleagues at a time when confidence and relationships are paramount. So besides being kind to the people you layoff for its own sake, it’s important to be aware that the remaining employees are deeply affected by these events and are watching to see if you maintain your ethics and humanity when times are hard and positions (linked to real people with real names and real lives) are cut. I still care deeply about the organization I left, and I fear the leaders have dug themselves a hole by the way they have handled this situation. I am fortunate to have found a new position (actually, a better position) quickly, but the sting and confusion of being let go suddenly despite years of exceptionally positive reviews will stick with me personally, and I think it scares those I left behind.
Thanks Annabeth. Your story is a lesson for everyone.
I hadn’t thought about those left behind. The environment leaders create when they treat people like tools boomerangs on the organization as a whole. Just that insight should be motivation to treat people like human beings.
In the end, caring for people is good for people and organizations.
Glad you found something else. I wish you well.