The impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on businesses has had the opportunity to be an employee relations crisis.
Both employees and employers have been confused, distressed and rudderless in terms of conditions of employment, job security, JobKeeper or JobSeeker, number of hours to be working (if working at all) and whether online from home is an effective option. Not to mention all of the other contributing factors of employee child-care arrangements, home-schooling older children and caring for their elderly family members.
I have had several conversations with people regarding the management of employees. While some are coping well, others are struggling to know what to do.
What I know from all of my interactions is that everyone has good intentions. However, employers will not be judged on their intentions. They will be judged on their actions.
The crisis of possibly losing your business backs you into a corner. Your options are limited and you are under pressure from many sides.
I’ve seen some practice owners come out fighting, alienating their team and I’ve seen others retreat, struggling to take any action at all.
With overwhelming situations such as what we are living with now, my advice is to stop and reflect for a few moments. What is the ultimate intention that is driving your staff management decisions at the moment?
Is it to keep your business?
Keep your staff safe from disease?
Maintain employment of your staff?
Be available for your patients who need you?
Every one of these intentions is honourable. So why is it that so many are finding it difficult to provide firm direction?
A powerful philosophy I took to heart when I owned my dental practice was the importance of identifying my leadership principles and remaining true to them no matter what life at the practice threw my way.
One of my principles came from my recognition that employers are in a position of power over employees. That it is the employer who creates the working environment and the conditions of employment. It is important not to abuse that privilege. It is because of this power that I developed the principle that I would manage employees in a manner that favoured the employee. No matter what.
This principle did not mean that I ignored the needs of my practice, patients and other stakeholders. What it did mean is that I held in high regard the opinions, ideas, concerns and dignity of everyone I employed.
Managing under this principle, I never asked somebody else to do something I wasn’t prepared to do myself, I never handed down a directive without proper communication and consideration, and I never forged forward with a project without regard for the impact my actions had on others.
This principle inspired a higher level of responsibility as a manager and leader.
Its implementation encouraged transparency with my team, safe and frank communication and, most importantly, trust. My team trusted that I had their best interests at heart. That their best interests were an important part of my decisions.
Jay Abraham, an American business executive, speaker and author, said during an interview (and I paraphrase) that “employees will only ever respect your reality if you first respect their reality”.
What will be your ultimate guiding principle through this challenging time?
It is the challenging times in life, after all, that the great ones see as an opportunity to rise up and become greater than before.
It is in challenging times that you can learn the most and develop the most.
One good option can be inspired by stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius: “Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honoured.” And, I might add to that ‘even if it is at the sacrifice of things that are important to you.’
There is a time in your future when COVID-19 is a distant memory, you will retire and sell you practice, downsize your possessions and live a more simple life. Consider at this later stage in your life, reflecting back to now. How will you judge you?