Leading through a diverse Covid-19 response: Not everyone in our team will respond and react the same

As we step through the lower stages of Covid-19 response (Levels 2 → 1 and eventually beyond) not everyone is going to respond the same way. While many will be eager and enthusiastic to get back to something that looks like ‘normal’ there are likely to be many others who are very nervous about infection control and future job security. Inbetween those two types will be a range of thoughts – relief, hope, confidence, worry, uncertainty, and ambivalence to name a few. This will be exacerbated by some surprises, adapting to new ways of doing things, irritability, accumulated changes both minor and significant, and a big dollop of the unknown. Tiredness may also be a factor as some shift from being relatively under stimulated in lockdown to very stimulated, others are more busier than they thought they would be, and for some essential workers fatigue may come from not having had the chance to have a real break. 

How we might respond is not necessarily the way others will. That can lead to a range of expected emotions and behaviours: a lack of empathy, How we might respond to the community returning back to work is not necessarily the way others will. That can lead to a range of emotions and behaviours: a lack of empathy, impatience, miscommunication, a sense of isolation and not feeling supported, a sense of special treatment, and distrust that we have each others back and are trying our best. All of these will impact the choices we make, the behaviours we show, and how we interpret what is going on around us. Don’t be surprised if stuff happens in waves – some days it’s good and on others some people might struggle a bit . That is normal. It’s how we manage the harder moments, take advantage of the better ones, and keep communication open with where people are at that is the key to building confidence in a long-term recovery and positive return to a new normal. It’s about ensuring as best we can that those ready to move forward can do so and are recognized, and those struggling in a way that is new to them don’t feel too isolated, left behind or required to undertake what they see as unreasonable risks.

Some key tips whether you are a leader and/or a colleague?

  • As much as there is real enthusiasm out there for a return to ‘normal’ it is important to be aware there is likely to be some anxiety and nervousness about leaving safe bubbles and introducing risks. People’s sense of threat and risk may shift back and forth a bit over the time ahead with new information and activity.
  • Be supportive. Most people will re-engage in their own time and way, especially when they observe others they know and trust doing so and with confidence. 
  • Even if someone is working away from the workplace, they still need to be included in team communications and, as much as possible, be productive on key work tasks. This will help transitioning back.
  • Identify specific sources of concern (e.g. infection control, handling product/people, deliveries, certain areas of a business or enterprise involving risk) and work to develop a strategy or mechanism to mitigate that as best as reasonably possible consistent with organizational policies and role needs.
  • Consider some form of gradual return to work or return to the workplace if needed. Not everyone will be able to or want to return the way they worked before. And for some there will be efficiencies and satisfaction gained from remote working options.
  • Lead with empathy
  • When communicating through vulnerability we need to listen and understand before we develop solutions, even if we are confident that we have the solutions in advance.

For more information on this issue contact Chartered Organisational Psychologist, Jonathan Black, at jonathan@farsightglobal.co.nz.