Responding and Communicating During a Global Crisis
The swiftness of how situations have changed since COVID-19 made a global impact is staggering for both individuals and companies. In a matter of days, we have changed the ways we handle trade and business. Students and employees were enabled to function from their homes. Online and mobile transactions became the norm and converted a lot of businesses with the capability to do e-commerce. The dichotomy of forced separation and the much-needed connection remains an ongoing challenge at every level.
While some companies have contingencies planned and approached this situation with clear-headed urgency, others took a while to get back on their feet and set up strategies on how to make things work for them. Still, others are simply not built to stay afloat on their own, given the nature and scope of their business.
However companies responded to the pandemic, one thing is for sure in all scenarios: the impact on their employees is direct and inevitable. The nature of jobs changed drastically for most people, and the requirements have developed in such a short time that employee flexibility and patience have been tested this past month.
As we try our best to safely navigate the world in this new, unpredictable, and uncertain state, have we come to terms with all of it? Are we embracing this as the new normal, or are we trying to stay still and wait for things to go back to the way it was?
Every company – that is, its stakeholders, managers, supervisors, and even colleagues in the frontlines – has a responsibility to communicate appropriately about their own and their organization’s situation. The answer to “How are you?” has never been so critical, and transparency in this crisis is so vital not just in staying healthy and safe, but also in keeping relationships and work teams together, and ultimately in keeping the economy afloat.
Communication during a crisis requires clarity. It can be difficult to sort out the facts from speculation and our thoughts can easily be bogged down by panic and other overwhelming emotions. Setting these feelings aside is not constructive, either. Burying the feelings deep can either cause us to crack or make haphazard decisions as we ignore the signs and rules. What can help us instead is to face our emotions for what they are, as they come. Studies on naming emotions gave us the power to accept how we feel and react, and then assist us to refocus our thoughts.
Confiding with trusted friends, colleagues, or a partner can also alleviate the emotional and psychological toll brought about by uncertainty. Many companies encourage teams to meet online not just for shoptalk but to let each other share their feelings and situations. Understanding each other’s struggles and how we are all invested in them lets us see things in perspective. We are all in this together. We also need to actively empower each other and help ease the burden by working more closely together.
Mitigating a Bigger Disaster
Companies are responsible for communicating at every level of their organization. The need for both truth and tact in every message means that how they are packaged and distributed can define the response of the recipients. A way to centralize the message by having an active spokesperson can help in keeping the message tight and effective.
Telling the truth is absolutely necessary, and making an official statement will help employees sort out the facts from rumors. Mistrust is easily earned when the truth is twisted, manipulated, or outright withheld. Nonetheless, ensuring a competent conveyance of the message is necessary to assure the recipients of how responsible the company is handling the entire situation. Empathy in your words and intentions, and a focus on “them instead of you” will help in getting everyone to cooperate and stay on course with the company’s vision.
Discussing developing strategies help employees stay on course and feel that they are constantly a part of the company’s decision. It also informs them of the required flexibility in their roles and tasks. Empowering the people as well as understanding what they are going through is important to ensure the execution of these strategies.
Everyone tends to take a hint from their supervisors and managers on how to react to a crisis, or pretty much anything. Regardless of how you feel about your “boss”, you are most likely to infer the company’s situation based on how your “boss” is acting and treating you. It is, therefore, a growing necessity for corporate leadership to build resilience and work together to make sure the rest of their teams are handled with compassion and direction. Leadership represents the rest of the company for their teams and must employ the same message and vision as the rest of the organization to reinforce the sense of security and trust.
We may not have a full grasp of how the world will look like when this crisis has passed. But given the history of the human race, we will come out stronger and educated. Let us use this opportunity to work together, develop our empathy and resilience, and give each other encouragement and help however we can. Through constant and effective communication, we can stay stronger for ourselves and each other.