As we navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest crisis in our lifetime, we’re hearing about many acts of heroism, kindness, generosity, and creativity.
Medical supplies are being donated by TV medical shows, skilled tradesmen, craft groups, and citizens; and manufactured by companies big and small to support first responders and healthcare workers.
Big businesses and individuals are donating money to support small businesses and people whose jobs and livelihoods have been impacted by mandated shutdowns.
Neighbors are helping neighbors, friends are supporting each other to check on their health, ensure everyone has food, and that other needs are met.
Volunteers are providing food for school children. Financial institutions are giving borrowers relief from payments. Landlords are providing rent free space. Utilities and companies are suspending cut-offs and restarting services.
Essential workers are bravely providing necessary services to ensure supplies reach their necessary destination; provide a safe and secure environment; and keep crucial functions operating.
Parents are valuing their children’s teachers more while they experience personally the joy of spending all day, day after day with them.
Families are spending more time together than they could ever imagine and rekindling a joy and love for one another.
And people are grieving over family and friends lost to the horrors of this evil disease.
And all the while, alongside it all, employees have the same question for their leader.
“What about me?”
When so many people are battling sickness and financial distress; in the middle of conversations about moving beyond the curve and getting to a flat line; while listening to discussions about ending orders to shelter in place and restart the economy, the question lingers.
They can’t help but wonder because everyone craves security. They all want to know that everything will be okay, this too shall pass, their investments will be recovered, that they will be able to dig out of any financial hole.
They’re not selfish, they’re human. They’re anxious. They’re battling fear. They’re seeking peace. They’re reassessing personal, professional and financial priorities. They’re trying to figure out the future, even though they know it’s far too soon to do so.
And as their leader, they look to you for help in the process. They have questions that they hope you will be able to answer one day soon. Meanwhile, they’re working hard to make progress on shifting priorities, or they may be hardly working because COVID-19 has upended their ability to do so, or they’re hoping to be called back to work. They may not be as close to the constantly changing details as you are to recognize the difficulty of communicating accurate and consistent information. Yet, it’s important to understand their questions and provide timely updates, without waiting for them to ask. Share what you do and do not know. Provide information that will help them make decisions.
Here are 10 other questions your employees may have.
- How will this pandemic impact me, my work, and my usefulness in this company?
- I’ve been furloughed or laid off, but for how long? And how long will I continue to have health care?
- How is this impacting our company’s finances, sales, products, and services?
- How is this impacting my division or department?
- What’s the plan to address the impact and will I be treated fairly?
- What can I do to help? And have you tried __(insert their idea)___?
- What can I be learning during this time that will help me to add value in the future?
- Are there other areas of the company where my skills can be utilized?
- What are other companies doing?
- I’m grateful to be able to help others, have a job and work right now, even though the hours are insane…but what happens when this is over? I’ll need a break, or will I still have a job?
The questions may come jumbled all together. The answers may change as weeks and months progress. But your willingness to listen, share, help them understand the challenges and decisions, solicit ideas, and find creative ways to address the problems you all are facing will go a long way.
Be proactive in addressing their concerns. Be frequent in your communications. Be empathic in your responses. As their leader, you probably have the same questions, and you’re looking for hope from your own leadership; hope that everything in the new normal will work out, and “me” will be okay.