Your New Normal Must Include Room for Emotions

by May 14, 2020

During these past few months, we bet employees haven’t been totally honest about how they’re feeling.

There are two reasons they’ve been hiding the truth: 

First, showing emotion is socially unacceptable at work. It’s considered weak and unprofessional to cry, show sadness, or share how you’re feeling. (Though yelling and even bullying is considered okay, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

Second, with potential layoffs looming, employees have made it a point to appear strong and resilient while silently suffering from anxiety. 

As your organization looks at reopening, however, you simply can’t ignore the fact that your employees have just been through a traumatizing experience, and that it’s not over yet. 

Now, more than ever, it’s time to change the paradigm about emotions at work. You have to encourage employees to be honest and embrace their emotions, so that they can move past them.

Here are five tips for doing just that: 

  1. Remind people they belong by engaging in some post-COVID onboarding. Employees will feel uneasy about their role in the organization post COVID-19, and a warm welcome can go a long way. Brainstorm ways to reconnect employees with the workplace and the organization itself. Get out your onboarding program and figure out how you can apply it to your returning workforce. Check out this article if you need some inspiration. 
  1. Set an example by sharing your own emotions. Although everyone plays a role in establishing company culture, leadership has the power to set the tone. If you share your own emotions others may follow suit. Don’t be shy to talk about how it was to be remote, the challenges you faced, and your ups and downs. Employees will build camaraderie around this tough time they’ve gone through together, and will get to know each other better, which encourages collaboration. 
  1. Hold regular check-ins with employees. Many leaders, managers and supervisors instituted regular check-ins with employees to ensure open communication while everyone worked remotely. Continue this practice in-person, as it’s effective to individually reach out to employees and makes it more likely for them to come forward about what they are going through. Use this list of questions for inspiration about what to ask.
  1. Help employees remain cognizant and aware of their own emotional states. There are several emotional intelligence apps out there these days to assist individuals with their emotional wellbeing. The information isn’t for you to collect, but it’s important to encourage employees to stop and consider how they’re feeling from day to day. Invest in offering this or other types of apps such as meditation, journaling, or happiness, to show employees their mental health and wellbeing is important to you. 
  1. Use your core values to inspire ideas. We mentioned previously that it’s important to take a look at your core values and identify how they may change as you reopen the workplace and develop a new normal. Mental health and wellbeing should be included in that conversation. Review your core values and let them inspire your mental health and wellness programs. 

This is an excerpt from our up and coming Reopening the Workplace eBook. Keep your eyes peeled for it’s release in the next few weeks!

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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