Many of us are experiencing a tremendous amount of emotional labor as we continue to live in uncertain times. While it may sound nice to compartmentalize the world from our work, the reality is this isn’t a realistic scenario. As colleagues, as managers, as leaders, how can we best support each other as we ask the tough questions: “How do I keep going? How can I support my team? What do we need from each other?”
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are five things that are important to focus on at this point in time as a manager or team leader:
How can we extend grace and hold grace for others? We are not only all working under very heightened stress conditions right now, but we have been working in this prolonged state since March 2020. The longer this pandemic extends, the more that holding grace for others is going to be critical.
What does it mean to hold grace? It means to have compassion for someone else, to have sympathy for what they are dealing with or what they might be going through, and to have some concern for them. These might seem like basic feelings and states of being, but often when we get into stressful situations, we tend to go heads-down and focus on deadlines, meetings, and work. We forget that there are human beings who are in this work with us. Above all else, when we think about extending grace to others, be kind.
How can we practice holding empathy and being empathetic? What that means is asking yourself, “How can I put myself in someone else’s position and look at the world from their point of view?” In the DEI work that we do at She+ Geeks Out, we talk a lot about the idea of holding multiple truths at the same time, and that really gets to the core of being empathetic. How can I hold someone else’s truth along with my own truth? Sometimes there’s overlap and sometimes there’s not, but the practice of thinking through this concept in your mind is essential. Empathy is key because we are all going through life right now in very different stages and situations. What might be top of mind or pressing to you is probably going to be very different from what is going on with your employees or someone else with whom you work or interact. We have to actively practice this skill. Oftentimes empathy doesn’t get the attention or focus it deserves, because it tends to get lumped into “soft skills.” We don’t always tend to keep empathy top of mind, but we do need to think about how we can practice empathy for others.
At She+ Geeks Out, we appreciate every single person who we work with, and hopefully that’s true for you as well. But in a hustle-first society, even the most appreciative folks might not take the time to actually voice it. For many of us, appreciation and gratitude might be something that lives at a mental level, as opposed to being expressed outwardly. Appreciation can come in a lot of different forms. This can be as simple as a word of thanks to someone for showing up, completing a project, or hitting a deadline.
But appreciation can be, and often should also be, shown publicly– especially when it’s something that affects the entire team, sharing that recognition can go a long way. At She+ Geeks Out, we try to practice giving thanks to our team members in a myriad of different ways, whether it’s a private text message, a verbal thanks in a one-on-one meeting, or a shout out in our Slack channel (we actually have an entire shout-out channel dedicated just to this!). Appreciation could also take form beyond words and could even be monetary. Perhaps that would look like giving someone a spot bonus or a raise, appreciating them in a way that shows not just your verbal thanks, but also that you value them being part of your team and you want them to stay. Your appreciation could also come in the form of additional benefits, expanded access, whatever that looks like to you and your organization. This is likely something that varies widely depending on the resources that are available to you. Remember, at the end of the day, it can be as simple as a note saying, “thank you, I appreciate you.”
Often when we start talking about health benefits in a workplace context, we focus on physical health. We think about a gym membership, a bike membership, or an exercise rebate. However, mental health is probably just as, if not more, important than physical health these days. Take a critical look at your benefits: do you offer benefits that cover and support mental health?
Beyond just providing those benefits, there’s also the element of modeling transparency and vulnerability within your organization for using them. Sometimes there is a stigma that gets associated with mental health in the workplace. You may find that a lot of people feel uncomfortable talking about mental health or sharing their mental health with colleagues, their boss, or work friends. As a manager or leader at your company, you can model a cultural shift away from this norm. This could be as simple as taking the time to share when you’re going to be offline while at a therapy appointment. The topic may never come up again, but it can normalize talking about mental health within your organization, and it normalizes this practice of holding space for mental health. It also shows that, as a company, as a person, and as a leader, you value that and will provide support for others who may need that help as well. Support for mental health can also look like providing financial support for talk therapy at the company level, mental health days, and normalizing that practice of actually taking these days off. At a base level, it might just be being transparent around mental health and why it’s a priority.
If nothing else, this time in our lives has taught us that we can’t always anticipate what is going to happen. Because that’s the reality, we have to build in to team communications that we can be flexible and pivot quickly if needed. It’s okay if that process looks a little messy- it might not be perfect, but it really comes down to how you communicate and correspond. From a business standpoint, you want to be thinking at all times about what could happen. Leaders should always be thinking through: What’s my plan B? What’s my plan C? What’s my plan D? and then adjust on the fly. At an organizational level, you should be discussing backup plans with team members and discussing what it looks like to be flexible. Pandemic aside, we know that life is messy and things happen, and if we’ve already thought through how we can adjust quickly, and if we built in support structures for that, then we’ll be better off in the long run, no matter what.
To learn more about professional development opportunities for emerging women+ leaders, visit our Rise Up Program section. To learn more about professional development opportunities on diversity, equity, and inclusion, visit our Corporate DEI Training section.