The fluid, uncertain nature of the rapidly growing COVID-19 public-health crisis is fueling global panic, including among employees–which is prompting a new challenge for HR leaders to quell that anxiety.
Helping workers navigate those feelings is a business imperative, says Maggie Craddock, founder and president of executive-coaching firm Workplace Relationships.
“By focusing on the emotional resilience of their workforce, we believe that firms can cut the costs of hurried mistakes, minimize mental distractions and strengthen their overall culture,” she says.
Craddock, who has more than 20 years of experience as an executive coach, including for Fortune 500 CEOs and senior-management teams, says her organization recommends a four-stage process for driving emotional resilience and encouraging emotional agility under pressure:
Awareness: Recognize both the risks and potential opportunities of a crisis.
Emotional Ownership: Acknowledge emotional triggers and allow yourself to pause under pressure when encountering them.
Interaction: Consider others’ emotional triggers and how they may influence their interactions with you.
Integration: Set a consistent tone by strategically balancing your personal reactions and your professional responsibilities.
In addition to encouraging workers to adopt these strategies, Craddock notes, HR professionals must also consider their own responses to pressure in order to model confidence and fuel positive relationships with their workforces.
“By pausing to identify the thoughts and feelings that are playing out inside of them, HR leaders will be better prepared to be respond authentically and effectively with others,” she says. “This is because, for all of us, the way we communicate with ourselves dictates the confidence we bring to things like our vocal tone during a phone call, our timing and even the sense of presence we convey through our writing if we are crafting a message from a remote location.”
The unfolding health crisis and its impact on workplaces may be new territory but employers can look to the past for some guidance. For instance, the 9/11 terrorist attacks shifted many organizations from viewing the HR function as a cost center to a vital component of their strategic plans, Craddock says.
“In the aftermath of this tragedy, the strengths of talented HR professionals emerged as central to their firm’s survival strategy,” she notes. “In my opinion, the challenge we are facing with COVID-19 will create a similar opportunity for HR leaders to help reshape the cultural and strategic direction of their firms.”