Compassionate Leadership in Uncertain Times
As we begin to return to some normality in our lives, many people are beginning to realise that what lies ahead is unfortunately more uncertainty. As well as the threat of COVID-19 there also looms the threat of economic uncertainty. As well as the fear for our health, many will now fear for their future professional lives also.
Living with fear creates high levels of stress and anxiety and our mental wellbeing can be enormously impacted by this. Fear reduces our capacity to think rationally and we often make poor decisions as a result. For example, allowing our workload to build up and overwhelm us. The majority of us have had our working lives changed in some way over the past number of months, be it working from home or new practices in the workplace, which can add an additional workload to already busy employees.
However our ability to adapt to almost any situation is what has helped us survive in the past and this will be no different in the future, but to ensure that everyone in the workplace can adapt, it’s vital to ensure that they feel safe and supported. By this I mean that they feel physically safe, but also secure enough to know that they can discuss any stresses or anxieties they may be experiencing as a result of their job. Many of us can be reluctant to discuss these topics with leadership as we perceive that if we do we will somehow seem weak or not as capable as our colleagues.
An organisation that encourages these types of conversations will not only help their employees feel heard and supported, but will also promote more positive engagement from workers as well as more mutually supported environments. If leaders are open to discussing topics such as managing workload, stress, anxiety and fear, this will normalise the subject of wellbeing and encourage all employees to be more open and supportive of each other.
Compassion or Empathy?
Compassion and empathy are similar concepts but differ in one crucial way. Empathy is the ability to take the other persons perspective and feel the emotions of others, practicing empathy with others shows them that you are there to support them, listen to them and is a great way to resolve any conflicts or issues in normal times.
However we are not in normal times and what’s needed as we try to navigate our way into a more promising future for business is compassion. The word compassion literally means to suffer together. It’s when you are confronted with the emotions of others and you become motivated to help. Compassion is a call to action, to support colleagues who need it, to adapt and succeed in our new working environments. This is the key difference between Empathy and compassion and why adopting an approach where wellbeing is a priority in your organisation will demonstrate that this is a compassionate workplace.
A flexible approach.
The past few months has demanded that we adapt quickly to the most stressful situations the majority of us have had to face in our lifetime. Along with our personal worries about our own health and the health of our loved ones, many of us have also been working from home, while many enjoyed this for others either working in busy households or lonely households have experienced quiet traumas that have affected their mental wellbeing.
It’s vital for employee wellbeing that flexibility in how they manage their workload continues to help them manage the personal challenges they may have, for example.
- A working from home policy. If employees are required to continue to do so. Without the routines and structures of the workplace it can be difficult to remain engaged and employees can quickly become overwhelmed by a poorly managed workload. Supporting employees to organise and structure their day will reduce stress and improve productivity.
- Flexibility in approach. Every employee is different and it’s important to adopt an approach that supports each individual as they need it.
- Support structures. Developing positive support structures or highlighting them again if they already exist. Many people can be reluctant to discuss issues concerning stress and anxiety, but by putting structures in place where employees feel safe to discuss these issues openly will encourage active engagement. It’s important to remember that the faster we discuss difficult emotion the more likely we are to be able to overcome them.
As we all try to continue to adapt and focus on the task that is in front of us in our professional lives, it’s important to remember that some of us are doing better than others. To lead with compassion is to take action to ensure that everyone can succeed through this time of change.