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Navigating the impact of the second wave on the Australian workforce

- July 24, 2020 3 MIN READ

Just when you could see that there was light at the end of the management tunnel, and you’d pulled your head out from under the doona, COVID takes its revenge in the form of a second lockdown in Victoria or as I write this, the re-tightening of restrictions in some other states. Feeling unmotivated right now? You’re not alone, writes Mark LeBusque founder and director of The Human Manager.

Perhaps it’s because you had created a story that we were over the worst of it and that with every day going by and the numbers of infections dropping we were returning to some sense of business unusual. Maybe it’s because this was avoidable and we feel let down by our elected officials. Is it also that you like to be in control and at the moment that’s just not happening?

There was also that first wave of job losses and huge lines at Centrelink that we could not avoid seeing on our televisions or mobile devices. Subtle reminders bringing a sense of ‘Am I next?’ as our hardwired survival instincts kick in once restrictions started to tighten again.

So, how can managers help their employees to navigate through a second wave and stay focussed on the business needs in a time when emotions are running high? Think back to March and remember that the constant here is that we are still dealing with humans.

Here are my 5 tips on how to Navigate the Management maze of lockdown two:

  1. Be Honest – this is no time for sugar coating the message and losing trust with your staff. If there’s bad news to be delivered make sure it’s done in a human way that makes sense to those who are receiving it. Make sure if they move on they understand they are valued and it’s not due to their performance but the sustainability of the business.
  2. Practice Vulnerability and Empathy – if you are back in lockdown as well, be open to sharing some of your vulnerabilities with your team. Tell them how you are feeling and that it is ok to share this within the group. If you are managing others in lockdown from another state a bit of empathy goes a long way right now. After all you have been there right?
  3. Focus on the Business and People Issues – congratulations because you are still in a viable business position and it will be important to balance the time across keeping the doors open and managing the human emotions of a second lockdown. Create a list of ‘most important’ actions across both areas and keep a laser like focus on both.
  4. Deepen the sense of Connection and Belonging – if you are 100% back in ‘virtual world’ then set up the group weekly check-ins and find ways of connecting and creating the sense of belonging in your team. I like these two questions – What did you enjoy at work this week? What did you achieve outside of work this week?
  5. Be Careful of Throwaway Lines –  Sometimes you can look to use humour to lighten the mood, but pick your moment and be careful as it can backfire i.e. the throwaway line of ‘you should be thankful to have a job’ just doesn’t cut it right now. You are a manager of humans not a stand-up comedian.

Remember you’ve had some practice at this and whilst it feels different there is a constant here. Human beings are at the centre of the issue.

It’s a great time to step back into that human approach that was so evident in late March.

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