For many businesses, the work continues, the goals are still set and expected to be met, and tasks need to be completed. Nothing has changed, really. It may seem that there’s no time for empathy because everything else is (still) chaotic. Yet this is the perfect time to take the time to empathize. Direct reports need to know that you understand their personal situation – to the extent they are willing to share details – and that you empathize with all they are juggling.
Now is a good time for transparency. Not everyone is comfortable with the myriad of new tech tools popping up to assist communications when face-to-face isn’t possible. For employees who have worked in traditional office settings for years, the myriad of new systems can be overwhelming. On the flip side, maybe the seasoned team members can provide some tips and shortcuts to the newbies.
Leaders can step up by embracing the generational differences among their team members related to technology, tasks, and processes. Conscious inclusion is vital. Identify and acknowledge each person’s comfort levels and experience. Then ask younger team members to assist those less comfortable with certain tools. Ask seasoned team members to offer some tips for staying focused. Sharing across generations will pave a way to forge positive working relationships and build trust. Engaging each generation with its unique skills to help others will create stronger teamwork going forward.
Recognizing privilege is important. It is neither good nor bad, it just is. Managing privilege is challenging in the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Employees may feel “exposed” as they struggle to manage a new work environment, children and family, finances, and food shortages, and certain privileges or lack thereof come to light. While each person’s level of privilege varies, it’s important to maintain privacy when needed and empathize.
Try to focus on the positive when possible – it’s a privilege to have a job that can be performed remotely, for example – and empathize with a lack of privilege when it comes to light – it’s a lack of privilege when finances prevent an internet service upgrade. Avoiding judgment is crucial, as is maintaining confidentiality when privileges are revealed. Remaining positive and showing empathy will help employees better manage their individual situations.
Remember to Evolve
As stated earlier, we’re all in a fluid environment, and change is everywhere. That’s ok. We’re all evolving whether we know it or not. Some employees may finally embrace changes they’ve been apprehensive about; others may learn to thrive outside of their comfort zone, and some may be forced to rise to a new level of greatness. It’s exciting to create what we will become in the future. As a leader, using best practices like these to remain connected and support each individual will create a more cohesive team – one built on empathy, trust, and respect.