My team keeps saying, ‘When we get back into the office and things go back to like they were before March…’ and I have to stop them right there. There is no going back to the way things were before COVID-19. There is only moving forward with a new reality.
This was part of a recent conversation I had with a close friend and tech executive. We were discussing how our families and co-workers were navigating the current disruption to the glossy bubble of Silicon Valley. This was before the recent tragedy of George Floyd.
Globally are going through an epic crisis. These are traumatic events. Uncertain times.
In trauma and crisis management, there’s a saying, “You don’t move on from trauma. You move on with trauma.”
There is no going back. There is only moving forward with the new reality.
The Global Storm
Globally, there is no going back to a world that was pre-January or March 2020. COVID-19 has changed things. How? We likely won’t know how and to what degree for years to come.
In the United States, deaths from suicide outpaced COVID-19 in the month of May. A study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly half of Americans reported the crisis has taken a tole on their mental health. A federal agency hotline for people with emotional distress saw an a 1,000 percent increase in the month of April compared to the previous year.
While these numbers are serious, they’re not unusual for epidemics and times of global crisis. The 1918 Spanish flu and 2003 SARS outbreak also showed a rise in suicides.
What Can You Do
Recognize and acknowledge. As leaders, we need to recognize and acknowledge the situation. Don’t try and side step crisis or trauma. Make space and time for your team.
Understand that people on your team will process and be affected differently. Some people on your team may seem unaffected by the situation. Others might need a day or two. And others might need several days or weeks.
Know your limits. You will likely want to be there for your team. That’s a sign of good leadership. Just know that there are things that will be above your pay grade. If you sense someone on your team is really struggling, then get them professional help. Bring in your HR partner. Let them know about the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255). Suggest that they speak with a crisis or trauma therapist.
As a coach, I work with a number of clients who bring trauma and crisis situations into our conversations. And while I have a background in Cognitive Psychology and training in crisis management, I’m not a medical professional. I recognize my limits. I’m open and honest with my clients about where that threshold is. And when I sense we’re approaching the threshold, I recommend a trauma therapist.
Provide hope. At some point, your team will need a new direction. They need to know what the new normal looks like. As a leader, part of your responsibility is to provide hope and paint a picture of the new future ahead.
Be careful not to do this until you’ve recognized and acknowledged the current crisis, listened actively to the teams’ concerns, and provided support for those who need it. Hope is a critical step in moving through crisis and moving forward with trauma. However, if you ignore the severity of the situation and just focus on the “rosy” picture, you may do more harm than good, you won’t be serving your team, and ultimately, you’ll loose their trust and confidence.
How are you and your team handling the current times? How are you helping your team navigate these times of uncertainty and providing them hope for the future?
Share your story. I’d love to hear it.
As always, I’m just an email or phone call away.
Mental health issues are real. If you or someone on your team is struggling, get help. Contact the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255).
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