Leading Blog


Leading an Emotionally Traumatized Workforce in the Midst of a Pandemic

Leading an Emotionally Traumatized Workforce

YOUR COMPANY has begun its phased reopening. You are excited to be back in the office and a more normal routine. However, things are not as normal as you thought they would be. Not everyone shares in your enthusiasm, and the culture of your team seems to have changed. Your team is easily distracted and anxious. Even your top performers are not themselves. You are struggling to understand what the issues are and how to address them. Should you allow performance to seek its own level? Should you remind everyone of the previous performance standards and enforce them rigidly? How long do you let the faltering performance continue?

The issue you, as the leader, are experiencing is the complexity of grief caused by a global pandemic. Grief is triggered any time a person faces the loss of what they considered to be their normal reality. The pandemic has caused many realities to shift. Some genuine, and some perceived. Many of these changes are losses. Here are some your people may be experiencing:

  • The loss of the family’s second income due to their spouse’s layoff
  • The loss of their sense of safety as they question the steps the company is taking to protect them
  • The loss of the control they had over their lives as they worry about how their children will return to school and how that will impact the need for childcare
  • The loss of contact from an elderly parent who is locked down in a care facility since the pandemic began
  • The loss of a loved one during the pandemic with no one around to comfort them or support the grieving family

Grief takes on many shapes and forms. When the global pandemic struck the United States, it was sudden and unnatural. This generation has never experienced anything like this in our lifetime. When losses of loved ones, employment, a home, or anything people have a deep relationship with are sudden and unnatural, the grief experienced is more profound, more prolonged, and more complex. Our psyche does not know how to process these types of losses. All of the instances cited above are the result of the sudden shift in people’s reality. This scenario is playing out in every business and at every level across the country. The result: people are in denial, people are angry, people are bargaining, and people are depressed—all stages of the grief cycle. Professional sports are not even immune to this as players are electing to sit out the abbreviated seasons as a result of the fear that their team will not be able to keep them safe.

So how should a leader deal with this situation? As a leader, it is up to you to adapt your leadership style to help guide employees through their new life and work reality. Adaptive leaders are versatile and adept at balancing the five evaluation attributes of their people: stewardship, trust, empowerment, collaboration, and communication frequency. By adjusting your leadership style across these five elements, the adaptive leader helps grieving or emotionally traumatized employees excel at work through times such as these. Adaptive leaders understand that employees who experience an emotionally traumatic event are not the same people when they return to work as they were before the event. Emotionally traumatic events impact both the person's ability to perform and their potential while they work through the event and the subsequent grief emotions.

Here are four tips for leading through these times:

  1. Understand that people are likely not going to be the same as they were before the stay-at-home orders.
  2. Recognize that you, as the leader, will need to engage more with your team collectively and individually.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Have the courage to engage in your people’s emotional well-being even though that will involve having awkward, emotional, and uncomfortable conversations about what is troubling them. Also, be open about what your organization is doing to provide for their safety.
  4. Incorporate what people tell you into the work systems that accommodate employees’ needs, and clearly explain why some changes may not be feasible.

We are not suggesting leaders relax performance standards or take a soft approach to leading—quite to the contrary. What we are recommending is the most challenging form of leadership. We are suggesting the leader should confront the issues head-on, but only after genuinely seeking to understand what the issues are from the employee’s point of view. It takes a strong and confident leader to engage people on a personal and emotional level. If you implement these four tips, your team will see you as a compassionate leader who is willing to adapt your style to meet them where they are as they navigate their new realities.

Now more than ever, people are looking to their employer to demonstrate that they care about them. How a leader deals with these difficult situations sends a highly visible message. The result will be higher levels of trust in you and the organization, higher morale, higher productivity, and higher levels of loyalty and engagement.

We would enjoy hearing about your leadership experiences as they relate to this topic. Visit our website, www.griefleaders.com, and share your story on our contact page.

* * *

Leading Forum
Guy Casablanca and Anthony Casablanca are the cofounders of GriefLeaders, a training and consulting organization devoted to educating leaders on how to help grieving employees excel at work. Guy is a dually licensed funeral director and mortician, highly experienced at facilitating healthy grieving processes, who has owned two businesses, consulted for corporations, and led teams of managers. He currently manages a funeral home in Loveland, Colorado. Anthony is a senior executive with 30-plus years of experience and a proven track record of purpose-driven leadership. He has held several leadership roles with Batesville Casket Company, the world’s largest funeral service products provider, and was named the 2009 Human Resource Executive of the Year for Indiana. Brothers, Guy and Anthony Casablanca are the coauthors of The Dying Art of Leadership: How Leaders Can Help Grieving Employees Excel at Work.

* * *

Like us on Instagram and Facebook for additional leadership and personal development ideas.

* * *


Explore More

Inner Peace Transpersonal Leadership

Posted by Michael McKinney at 07:02 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Human Resources



Books to Read

Summer Reading 2022


Leadership Books
How to Do Your Start-Up Right

Explore More

Leadership Books
Grow Your Leadership Skills

Leadership Minute
Leadership Minute

Leadership Classics
Classic Leadership Books

Get the LEAD:OLOGY Newsletter delivered to your inbox.    
Follow us on: Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Instagram

© 2022 LeadershipNow™

All materials contained in https://www.LeadershipNow.com are protected by copyright and trademark laws and may not be used for any purpose whatsoever other than private, non-commercial viewing purposes. Derivative works and other unauthorized copying or use of stills, video footage, text or graphics is expressly prohibited. The Amazon links on this page are affiliate links. If you click through and purchase, we will receive a small commission on the sale. This link is provided for your convenience and importantly, help to support our work here. We appreciate your use of these links.