It’s shaping up to be another wild year. Rebounding from a global pandemic. Supply chain breakdowns. Navigating remote and hybrid working configurations. A mass workforce exodus followed by rescinded job offers in some sectors. And the threat of recession. Is it any wonder that we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of employee stress, burnout, workplace whiplash and mental health challenges?
And who’s left holding the bag? Managers — many of whom are struggling with their own equanimity and now must find ways to inspire the same in those whom they lead. This is no small feat given the workplace whiplash so many are experiencing, but it is possible. Using these four strategies with your team can mitigate the negative effects of today’s chaos and help your team remain focused and productive.
1. Introduce perspective
It’s easy to allow the doom and gloom from the news and social media to color our entire experience. And let’s face it: There’s likely plenty going on in your organization to be concerned about. But there’s also plenty that’s going well. And employees need to hear this — not as sugar-coating but as perspective.
Set the challenges of the day in the context of the bigger picture. Celebrate what’s going well. Focus on how the team’s work makes a difference to customers or others downstream. Remind people of the ebb and flow that’s natural in business, sharing stories and examples from the past that demonstrate how this, too, will pass.
2. Share information
For many, the absence of news is more troubling than bad news. And today’s employees are accustomed to having information literally at their fingertips. Transparency reigns, and there’s no such thing as a secret. So, don’t try to help others manage stress by withholding information. Generously communicate what you can, as soon as you can. Anything less diminishes trust, telegraphs a lack of respect and only exacerbates the angst you’re trying to minimize.
3. Remove roadblocks
Stressful workplace conditions can be debilitating. Even small obstacles and impediments can seem overwhelming and cause otherwise resourceful employees to throw their hands up in despair. That’s why it’s critical right now to be highly sensitized to perceived barriers and roadblocks — and to proactively address them before they present a problem.
Talk with employees about their work and what might be getting in their way. Schedule a listening tour. Work with colleagues in other departments to facilitate smooth handoffs and collaboration. These actions communicate confidence and inspire calm, as well as high levels of performance.
4. Promote growth
Employees in many sectors are wondering what the future holds. They’ve seen colleagues laid off and prospective new colleagues’ careers with the organization ended even before they started. These employees are looking for signs that they are valued, and they’re looking to enhance their value — either with their existing employer or another one. This is where promoting growth comes in.
There’s never been a more important time to double down on development. Are you engaged in an ongoing dialogue with each employee? Do you know what their growth goals are? Is each actively and intentionally engaged in activities that offer the learning they want? Do employees feel that you’re investing in them and their future, whether that future is with your organization or another? Yeses across the board will help allay employee fears as they take productive action in service of their growth.
Finding one’s equanimity right now is difficult, and helping others do it is today’s greatest leadership challenge. Leaders who introduce perspective, share information, remove roadblocks and promote growth will at least minimize the effects of workplace whiplash as they support their employees and organization alike.
Julie Winkle Giulioni focuses on growth and development in the workplace, helping leaders and organizations optimize the potential of their people. She co-authored “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want.”
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