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Right now, emotions are running high.

Unless you received some in-depth management training on how to tap into and manage your employee’s inner psyche (my guess is not), this is probably a challenging time. After all, emotions are running high, and employee challenges amid COVID-19 may have more to do with emotions than actual abilities. That’s not what you signed on for, but here it is. Fear not, you’ve got this. Add mini psychologist to the resume!

Emotions make the complex really complex.

Have you ever had the experience of asking a benign question and getting an earful in response? What should have been a simple answer turned into a rant of sorts, perhaps even with crying or yelling. Where the heck did that come from? Welcome to the world of emotions. Often unseen, but always present. Emotions can make simple things complex, and complex things really complex.

Now, think about the state of the world today and how you feel. Odds are, there’s a fair amount of anxiety, fear, and maybe even sadness. Worries at home bleed into worries about finances, work tasks and other stressors. All this, understandably, has likely affected your behavior.

Now, think about your employees. They are human, just like you. They’re dealing with similar anxiety, fear, sadness and stressors. And as a result, they need the most self-aware, compassionate, emotionally intelligent version of you possible.

Ask yourself…

Are you attending to your employees? Can you detect their emotional states? Do you understand the myriad of demands they’re trying to manage, both at work and at home? Can you hear what is being said between their actual spoken words? Are you attentive to what is said, and what is not said?

Consider the following scenario:

  • A retail associate comes to you stating that someone has apparently stolen the remaining masks provided for public facing employees. It’s 2 more days until the next shipment arrives. She asks what to do, as masks will run out at the end of the shift.
  • You respond that this is unfortunate, but that you have no ability to expedite the shipment of masks. Gloves and hand-sanitizer are available, so you suggest that people just “do the best they can” until the next mask shipment arrives.
  • The associate quietly nods in understanding and walks away looking defeated.

If you left the conversation thinking the main problem was the masks, you missed something.

Sure, the masks were stolen and that’s a problem as they’re a critical layer of protection against illness. That’s obvious. However, for some, that mask may mean the difference between life and death, or widespread sickness for self or loved ones. A whole mental and emotional pathway follows the lack of a mask, and for many, it’s scary. Intended or not, the above approach sends the message that employee safety is not the priority. One simple conversation just got very complex indeed.

Manage with emotional intelligence for better outcomes.

How could that situation have been handled in an emotionally intelligent way to help the employee feel supported? Here are three simple guidelines:

First, express genuine concern. For employee safety, not the masks. Showing you care about the situation matters. If you are struggling to do this, think about if it were you in that situation. What kind of response would you want to hear?

Second, try and problem solve. Taking actions (even if they are ultimately unsuccessful) to resolve the situation shows that you understand the concern and are taking it seriously. Can you obtain masks from elsewhere? Can you improvise face coverings? Actions speak loudly. As a manager, you may not be able to solve all problems, but effort shows.

Third, maintain open communication and check in with your employees. While you may have a lot on your plate, don’t fall into the trap of “out of sight, out of mind.” Just because it’s no longer on your mind does not mean it’s not on the mind of your employees.

One last thing, and perhaps this is the most important. Don’t hesitate to share with your employees some of your own struggles, fears, and anxieties. This may not be a “normal” managerial thing to do, but again, nothing about business today is normal. If an employee shares a fear, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sharing a similar fear that you may have in your own life. We all may be afraid of bringing the virus home to family, worry about elderly friends or family, or struggle with massively increased personal demands. Sharing these things can help an employee to see that their experience is not unique, and that you understand their struggles as a person, and not just an employee.

Be attentive to your employees, particularly during this pandemic…and when you think of the phrase we will get through this together, make sure you are keeping your employees in mind.

Tyler is Associate Medical Director of R3 Continuum (R3c), a global leader in protecting and cultivating workplace wellbeing in a complex world. He has over 13 years of domestic and international experience in behavioral health workplace absence—including disability and worker’s compensation assessment, consultation with employers and insurers on complex claims, effective return to work strategies, program development and improvement, and training and supervision of industry professionals. He’s a sought-after speaker, writer and contributor in the field of workplace behavioral health. You can reach him at [email protected]

For more information from our Subject Matter Expert’s regarding COVID-19, check out some of our other daily blogs:

Daily Security Blog: https://r3c.com/news-and-events/covid-19-daily-security-blog/