It is impossible to deny that world events impact the workplace, whether it’s a natural disaster, a conflict in a war-torn region, or some other significant cultural event.
We are in the first weeks, and likely months, of a significant event in the Middle East.
I am not here to explore the political ramifications, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own opinions and feelings about what has happened. And I am indeed horrified by the terrorism and atrocities we’ve seen and heard about. And I am equally horrified by the impacts of war on civilians and the innocents.
I want to focus on how leaders in the workplace can deal with this. It would be easy to say: ‘Hey, let’s pick a new business issue and move on to normal things.’
However, ignoring people’s real feelings about what is happening in the world may seem cold and out of touch. So, as a leader, we need to acknowledge that there’s a humanity element to what is happening in the world. And that the workplace isn’t just where you separate life from your workspace.
Your people look to you for guidance, but you do not want to sound tone-deaf or indulgent.
You are tone-deaf when you know many of your people are not in a good place, and yet you are ‘forcing’ everyone to behave as if everything was normal and that outside events are not impacting your workplace. You don’t want your people asking: ‘Are you not human?’
What does indulgence, in this case, look like? It is going too far in the opposite direction. It’s like endlessly discussing the matter, having all the TVs continually tuned to the non-stop news feeds and driving people into further fear or worry.
So, how do you thoughtfully and respectfully acknowledge what is going on? I would suggest letting people know you can appreciate what is going on by saying something like:
I know a lot is happening in the world right now, and it’s heavy.
We are all sad and shocked, and if you need to talk to me about how you’re feeling, please do.
Let’s all pray and think about all those impacted people. Some of you may know people over there.
Some of you might have historical reasons why you are connected to all this, and I don’t want you to think I’m not concerned about you.
I hope we can allow our workplace and team to be a place and a time of peace, consolation, and distraction.
But if you need to discuss it, know I’m here.
Stephen Covey says that we all have a circle of influence and a circle of concern.
Right now, the world is distracted by something far outside of our circle of influence. And, when we allow that to go on, our people get increasingly frightened and feel like they can’t impact anything.
We only impact our circle of influence; in this case, we can influence how we lead our teams by acknowledging the humanity of the work, the people who work there, and what people are experiencing.
There is an art to this; you must understand where your people are to draw the line in the right place.
As a leader and a manager, we have a massive impact on people’s psyche and ability to see things. We must consider what these people need from us today to move forward so they can go home and be with their families.
Ignoring the emotions now would be ridiculous. We must acknowledge that current world events impact our work, and your work is not the most important thing, especially in such moments. It’s hard to put this in perspective, but it gets even worse if you don’t acknowledge it.
Sometimes, just being human is what we need to do, even if we don’t do it perfectly.
Trust your judgment and get advice from those around you to determine the best way to deal.
Because we’re trying to do is give people peace.
When you don’t know what else to do, keep our people in mind and that their hearts sometimes suffer.
That’s all we can do.
Ultimately, it’s essential to acknowledge all those suffering and for peace in the world.