There is no invention without people, no job success without people at the center of it, the rise and fall of our organizations, business and projects rely on effective people management. You might have had a bad experience with the people you work with and in turn, makes it very difficult for you to cut them slacks in their work. That may be an outdated form of people management, where HR responsibilities were to make sure people are following what was written on the books, then came Netflix with their flexible HR model which has proven to be very successful, also copied by many other organizations such as Google and Facebook. 

Human resource management is an ever-evolving field, a new body of work is being developed every day by researchers and scholars and this brings me to the topic of the day. In the age of social distancing, how can you enforce strict HR policies which are on the books when employees are working from home, how do you monitor if they completed the 8 hours workday or they just clocked in and went back to bed for the day? Do we really want to continue the people management model of punishing people for low performance or do we want to develop compassion and curiosity for their situation, mothers who have to home school their kids and take care of their work? Compassion and curiosity can increase employee loyalty and trust. A study by Jonathan Haidt of New York University shows that the more employees look up to their leaders and are moved by their compassion or kindness, the more loyal they become to him or her. 

Also, responding with anger or frustration lowers the bar and reduces loyalty. As Adam Grant, Professor at the Wharton Business School points out that, because of the law of reciprocity, if you embarrass or blame an employee too harshly, your reaction may end up coming around to haunt you. Reduces the employee chances of taking a risk in the future, and leaders who express negative emotions such as anger are seen as less effective compassion increases our willingness to trust.

What can I do as a people manager to make this a part of my work and to implement this new method of thinking?

I want you to start by acknowledging if you have been able to express compassion in your work with others if you have not. You should first get a grasp of it before planning to execute it at the organization level. You practice what you teach, work the talk because it starts with you here is the action you can take. 

  1. Reflect on the issue before taking action: We all have an implicit and explicit bias, when we make decisions swiftly we ten to make decisions out of anger or excitement. Taking a few moments to think through our actions will reduce the chances of us acting on those immediate emotions and late regretting our actions. There was a roman emperor during the time of war, he would wait two weeks before he read his mail by doing so some of the actions he tends to make at that moment have taken care of themselves. 
  2. Examine the situation with the lens of the employee at the time when the employee made the decision and not when you heard of the mistake. In fact, if possible try and recreate the scenario, this will give you a perspective into the situation furthermore deepen your relationship with your colleague because you took the time to sit with them and try to understand them better. This is a key step in deepening employee relationships, gives the employee room for improvement, and helps them see the situation as they recreate it where they have done wrong and show them the rooms for improvements. As writers are told all the time show don’t tell, I urge you to do the same, show don’t tell. 
  3. Express empathy by pardoning the employing instead of punishing them. Forgiveness is rare, is so easy to do but is the most difficult to execute. As you look back to the situation the more you get hurt by it, especially if it’s an opportunity your company missed out from, as you may know, forgiveness gives you an opportunity to let go of the situation. If you choose to punish the employee, they might purposely do it again to hurt the business or put pressure on you as a manager,  but if you choose to forgive. You guilt the employee into improving and becoming better because they believe you have faith in them.

If you have digested it for yourself. Now you can do the organization-wide implementation, if I’m in your position, I would write it into the training manual for new C level executives of the organization and use what I have learned as a story to teach it to my colleagues. You can also employ someone externally to help you with the training. Lastly, ask all supervisors to use this method to problem solve at least once or twice a month.