Does workplace mutual respect matter during a pandemic? Yes, it’s important with or without a pandemic, just like it is at home! The new social distancing rules prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a proliferation of remote workers. How do business leaders and organizations adjust to extraordinary circumstances never taught in business school? By relying on what they learned in grammar school.
Simple; but easy?
Mutual respect seems simple enough, and it is, it’s just not easy for some in management positions. Some of us have experienced this during our careers and have chosen to work elsewhere, and that’s kind of the point. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t worry, we’re here to help.
While in the midst of unprecedented amounts of misinformation and escalating anxiety, it’s easy to forget the common courtesies that help us get along and produce good, or even great work product. Commitments and deadlines still exist, and difficult or complicated work has been made even more so.
How bad are things during a pandemic?
Many of us still have all the responsibilities we’ve always had, plus a few new significant and very real concerns. We are now living in constant jeopardy of incapacitation and potential death, for both ourselves and the people we love. Plus, job eliminations, corporate bankruptcies, loss of income, profound childcare complications and inept, or worse, corrupt, governments. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres describes the impact of the coronavirus as “the most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War”. Though surrounded by fear, uncertainty and helplessness, how we treat each other and maintain pride in our work are still things within our control.
Steps to improve workplace mutual respect.
- Stay kind. Your boss, client, coworkers and subordinates have the same sensitivities, insecurities and aspirations as they did before shelter in place began, or significantly more. So, continue being considerate, polite and employing the golden rule, even more than you normally would. In fact, be proactive in treating others how you would want to be treated, especially subordinates.
- Be flexible. New health or family paradigm shifts of others may require more consideration on your part. If working at an essential business and still going to work, consider wearing a mask when not mandatory and let colleagues know your intention is to protect others. Call coworkers’ extensions instead of walking to their cubicle, office, etc. If working remotely, be more flexible and offer multiple options for scheduling meetings, calls, etc.
- Sharpen all forms of communications. Communicating in person is different than via the telephone or online. Some experts feel body language can account for up to 70% of communication. This means telephone calls, voice mails and emails require additional forethought and must be very clear. Additional follow-up may be required to keep communications precise. Proofread everything, even reading it out loud to make sure tone is as intended. Lastly, avoid any humor that could even remotely be misunderstood. You don’t always know what others are going through. There’s absolutely nothing funny about people suffering. Pain and anxiety come in many undetectable forms, from subtle to horrific.
- Be aware. Show you care by working in concert with your HR department to keep informed of any special or new needs by employees. Consider: surveys, motivational, we care about you, or, we appreciate you telephone calls, texts and/or emails to employees. Create a team email for “Did you know list” of helpful information.
Some companies are taking advantage of the shelter in place to increase profits, cut wages or both. Don’t be one of them, there will be a fall out when things get back to normal. When utilizing social media, Glassdoor, and other means, that’ll likely cost these unscrupulous companies far more than they ever hoped to benefit by such appalling behavior.
We acknowledge that there are far more than just 4 ways to improve workplace mutual respect during the coronavirus pandemic. We hope our readers employ every single one at work, and when appropriate (and even more important), at home too. There is so much uncertainty, fear and danger facing all of us, and unfortunately, very little within our power to control. But how we personally respond to the pandemic is still within our control. The golden rule of “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a pretty good place to start. With a little luck and workplace mutual respect, we will produce our best work product ever! And in the process, perhaps become the best version of ourselves as well; we are all, truly in this together.
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