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Workplace Wellbeing, Leadership and COVID-19

By May 4, 2020 No Comments

COVID-19 is here, it is real and it is having an unparalleled impact within our communities.

This means we are all facing uncertain times, even our industry experts are unsure of the implications. We can speculate but until we are through this we are only guessing what the economic and social situation will be. However, what we can say is that the impacts are already significant.

Business are closing. People have lost their jobs. Emotions are running high.

As we seek to navigate our way forward we are asking more of each other and ourselves.

We are being asked to rapidly adjust to constant change.

We are asked to be flexible, be responsive and continue to be productive.

We are being asked to stay safe, restrict movement but also support our economy.

We humans don’t deal with change well at the best of times, but when we are faced with enormous uncertainty and a rapidly changing situation, it is little wonder that many of us are feeling confused, perhaps scared and very likely stressed.

We are being pushed to our limits of emotional resilience, our capacity to deal with high stress and uncertainty. As a result, people are on edge and tend to react out.  During these times people will be less tolerant, will not listen well and are more likely to be positional. Ultimately this results in poor decision making and ineffective communication.

These are all triggers for conflict. Most of us would instinctively be aware of these risks but when we revert to survival mode it is much harder to lean in and engage with the tough issues effectively.

Here are some of the conflict challenges that you might be experiencing:

1-   High levels of stress within the workforce and people are having a go at each other.

2-   Normally nice people are offering advice and opinions which are causing conflict between people with different opinions.

3-   Businesses are having to close and lay off staff and they don’t know what to do.

4-   Businesses can’t pay their bills and don’t know how to have the conversation.

5-   People are fighting over resources and getting aggressive to staff.

Whilst we can understand why people are feeling this way, the negative behaviour doesn’t help us work towards good outcomes. In an environment of high conflict, we need to reduce the risks as much as we can. This means hiding our head in the sand is not going to cut it – we need to step up into our leadership potential and demonstrate our capacity to make decisions with a strategic focus, based on quality information in a calm and timely fashion. This is walking the business of conflict resilience.

Here are some tips that might help you reduce the risk of conflict and better lead your teams during high conflict situations.

1 – Stay Grounded

During times of chaos and confusion it is critical that those in leadership remain calm and focused on the issues that matter. Staying grounded is about you really understanding what your core function and priorities are and how they relate to the current situation. Consider what areas you can best influence change and focus here.

Action: Take it back to basics.

2 – Change your Mindset

Periods of conflict and crisis provide enormous opportunity for innovation and change if you can adjust your mind set from fear and blame. Be brave, be creative and be curious.

Action: Ask ‘what if we’….

3 – Engage in the hard conversations

Reducing the risk of conflict requires us to lean in and deal with the problems. We can’t start problem solving if we don’t start by talking about the challenges. It will be hard and it is likely to be emotional. However, leaders that are able to ‘go there’ are more likely to navigate conflict productively.

Action: Prepare, Be Clear, Problem Solve

It is ok to admit you are struggling as it is highly likely that each of us will face our own moments of overwhelm over the coming weeks and months, however as leaders we have a responsibility beyond ourselves. Our conflict resilience depends on both our empathy during crisis and our capacity to make brave decisions in a timely manner. So, while it might not seem like it, now is the time to really lean into the hard conversations and deal with conflict early. Doing so will help us reduce the costs and recovery time – healing, resolution and growth will emerge but only if we tend the problems early.

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