Balancing between caring personally and challenging colleagues directly during the pandemic is more important than ever, as many employees find themselves being informal coaches/mentors for one another.
We’re listening to “ZOOMed” stories that can be hard to hear and responding to emotions that are hard to witness.
To keep your workplace resilient, it’s important to elevate your approach to employee communication by focusing on all the good things happening across your business.
Here are five ways to give employees the tools they need to support their clients, teams and themselves during this difficult and unprecedented time.
Don’t withhold information
It’s tempting when you’re exhausted or uncomfortable to avoid telling people what they need to know, however, this isn’t good for anyone. The people I have spoken with who are the least stressed about their work situations are those whose bosses have been clear about the state of the company and have shown a vested interest in their employees’ wellbeing. One of the best ways to show that you care personally about your employees is to be honest with them about things that affect them.
It’s important to recognize that being the boss can be exhausting during the best of times, and during times of crisis, it can feel downright paralyzing. But, when you do have information that affects your team, commit to delivering it as soon as possible in a way that’s kind and clear. For example, if you know you’re going to be laying people off, tell them as soon as you can, on a video call, and commit to checking in with them after they’ve left the company to see how they’re doing.
Give everyone a voice
Be conscious of how much time you are talking versus other people in meetings when you work from home. If you’re taking up more than your fair share of time, try to be more quiet. If you are not speaking up, remember that it is an act of generosity to share what you are thinking. If you are leading the meeting, consider occasionally just going person by person in alphabetical order.
According to research from Google’s Project Aristotle, teams that speak roughly an equal amount of time perform better than teams where one person takes up all the airtime. If you find that some people are dominating meetings and others don’t make a peep, change the way you run the meeting. Start by checking in with everyone to give them a chance to talk, then ask people what they think by name throughout the meeting.
Ask what can be done better
Most people in the workforce today have never lived through a pandemic, so it can be hard to know what you’re getting right and what you’re getting wrong. Ask your team to tell you. Start by saying something like, “What’s something I can do to make things easier for you?” or “What’s something I am doing during this crisis that’s making things more difficult for you?”
You might be met with silence. Fight the urge to speak first. Count to seven and commit to allowing the other person to speak first. When it’s clear you’re not going to break the silence, the other person will speak up to fill the silence.
It will be easier for them to say something than to say nothing. Once the person starts talking, listen with the Intent to understand versus to respond. When they’re finished speaking, check for understanding.
You can say something like, “So what I hear you saying is…” Repeat back to them the issues they have raised, as you understand them. Ask, “Do I have that right?”
Finally, you want to Reward the Candor in a way that’s specific and sincere. First, thank them for the criticism. If you agree with the criticism, make visible changes based on the feedback. If the change is hard or will take some time, show them you’re working toward it. If you disagree with the criticism, try finding something they’ve said that you do agree with and point it out. Offer your full, respectful explanation of why you disagree with their other statements. This is a way to reward their feedback and gives them an opportunity to consider your perspective.
Following these steps will help you create a culture of psychological safety where people will feel comfortable raising important issues not only during a crisis, but every day.
Take a break
All over the world, leaders are being called upon to listen to stories that are hard to hear and to respond to emotions that are hard to witness. Showing compassion is real work, and like all real work, it is equal parts rewarding and taxing.
Caring for others starts with caring for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re feeling burned out. Give yourself the break you need. You can’t possibly Care Personally about others if you’re running on empty.
If you’re having a difficult time with your boss or a peer and you’re feeling frustrated before a conversation, my Radical Candor co-founder Jason Rosoff gave me this advice: release judgment.
Go into each situation assuming good intent versus that the other person wants to cause you harm. Things are difficult for everyone right now and many people don’t realize how their behavior might affect others. This is why Radical Candor is so important. It allows you to deliver feedback in a way that’s kind, clear, and non-judgmental.