In Times of Crisis, Put Employees First

As a leader, how do you put employees first?

Based on the conversations I’ve been having with leaders, managers, and employees, the most difficult part of this crisis is the uncertainty: about the changing statistics of the virus, the economy, and their livelihood.

Uncertainty adds to our fear, compounds our anxiety, and increases our level of stress.

This is the time for every private and non-profit leader to step up: the care of employees in a time of crisis is critical to our full recovery.

While it’s important to be transparent in communications, be mindful that anxiety and fear are contagious. To be sure, fear has its place: it has allowed us to survive as a species. But in the company of uncertainty, fear can grow into acute anxiety, triggering panic. We’ve seen this play out in grocery stores, stock markets, and in our social interactions with others.

Mitigate Anxiety

When anxiety is elevated for a period of time, it becomes chronic. Fortunately, there are actions leaders can take to mitigate this.

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  • Keep the lines of communication open; talk to your employees, listen, and respond. I wrote about this in previous post. [link] Ideally, you should be meeting every morning with your team, in person or via video. Ensure that you are knowledgeable about the resources available for them. Share this information.
  • Be prepared to communicate new information three times. When emotions are triggered, we only comprehend portions. People need time to process new information. Always include “why:” why that particular decision was made; why you are sharing this information; why the listener needs to know (how it will impact them.)
  • Commit. It is possible to be confident, even with uncertainty. Communicate carefully, framing information appropriately. For example, “At this time, what I understand is…”

Your attitude is your leadership brand. The way you approach a situation—your perspective—and the way you manage it greatly influence how your employees respond. Here are more tips to help you alleviate anxiety when communicating with your employees:

  • Prepare Yourself. Before you speak, write, or hit send, take a minute to center yourself. Pause, and breathe.
  • Imagine. What has been the experience of others? What are their challenges and needs? Acknowledge this in your message.
  • Validate. Share information that is credible. Be mindful and clear with your word choices. When you don’t know, say so.
  • Identify the next action step for you and your audience. This provides an opportunity to unite, contribute, and take action, all supportive to a sense of purpose, meaning, and control. Always explain why. And remember: most people will need to hear a message three times before they understand it in entirety. Be prepared to answer questions through this process, acknowledging their feelings.

Your communication style determines your leadership style. Be precise. Be knowledgeable. Ask questions:

  • What do we want to accomplish?
  • What did we do yesterday that worked well?
  • What do we need to do today?
  • What do you need from me to accomplish this?

What do you think? What steps are you taking to put employees first? I’d love to hear from you.We’re in this together. Let me know how I can help.

Learn more about Scaling Up’s methodology