Today will not be “business as usual.” Just know it. After the devastating bombings at the Boston Marathon, people are still reeling. As a manager or supervisor, it is critical for you to take certain steps to help your people deal with the shock and the aftermath, so they can be productive again. Here are seven tips to help you:
1. Acknowledge the crisis event. It is something that affected everyone, not just the people attending the Marathon. Whether people were there, knew someone who was there, or simply watched the news, this event had critical impact on everyone. We are all feeling the pain, and wondering how such a thing could happen. As a leader, it is important for you to take people’s emotional reactions seriously. Let your people know you understand and you care. You can hold a team meeting, conference call, or simply do a walk-around. What is important is that you give people the opportunity to talk about the event, and share their feelings.
2. Do something visible to support the victims. This could be as simple as having a scheduled minute of silence, encouraging each person to respond in their own way, or as major as creating a fund-raising activity to send financial support to the area. Allowing people to physically express their desire to respond helps them move through the situation more effectively and more quickly.
3. Be accessible to employees, and responsive to individual needs. Everyone responds differently to these kinds of situations. Some people prefer to move ahead and work through it; others have sudden emotional rushes; others begin to have panic attacks; others have a need to talk. As much as possible, clear your calendar and make yourself available during the next several days, and encourage people to come share their thoughts. Be nonjudgmental in how people are dealing with the event.
4. Discourage media overload. People will naturally want to stay connected to what is happening, and may tend to spend more time on the Internet watching the unfolding news. Discourage this as strongly as you can. Too much immersion in the news can weigh a person down, spiraling their emotions into depression, fear, and hopelessness. A suggestion is to have someone in your Communications Department be responsible for keeping a check on breaking news, then reporting any important updates to all employees.
5. Focus on messages of hope, healing, and forgiveness rather than revenge, justice, or fear. This allows everyone to get back to work sooner, and focus on productivity. Nip in the bud any indications of finger-pointing or profiling of a specific group represented in your workplace. Remind everyone of the value of honoring individual uniqueness and reinforce the value of diversity and open communication.
6. Meet with your team leaders to ensure that communication channels are open at every level within your organization, and people are encouraged to share their thoughts and feelings about the crisis situation. Reinforce the value of listening with compassion and the intent to understand. This is a time when visibility is critical, so encourage all supervisors and team leaders to spend time in the work areas, walking around and talking with their employees.
7. Be on the lookout for emotional aftershock. Sometimes this shows up weeks later, and can exhibit as unusual health-realted challenges (headaches, twitches, breathing difficulties, etc.); increased emotional outbursts (anger, fear, guilt, depression, crying, etc.); or out-of-the-ordinary behavioral issues (suspicion, withdrawal, excessive movement, increased smoking, drinking, or other habitual behaviors, etc.). As you notice any symptoms, talk with the employee and , as appropriate, make them aware of any employee counseling assistance that is available.
By quickly and sincerely connecting with your people about the crisis situation, you not only help each person deal more effectively with their own reactions; you model the humanness of connectivity and bring your team together in a special way. In the end, the time you invest in supporting people through the crisis will reap huge benefits in terms of engagement, commitment, and productivity. And by the way: Be sure to take care of yourself, too!“In everyone’s life, at some time, the inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.” (Albert Schweitzer)