Can We All Have a Little Grace With Each Other?

Posted on April 23, 2020

Thank you note

This Morning Buzz is by Susan Barkman, Council/Mayor Management Analyst for the City of Aurora, Colorado. Connect on Twitter and Linkedin.

  • What am I watching: Life Below Zero
  • What am I listening to: I Heart Radio – Hot Country, Bobby Bones, and Top 40
  • What I am hoping for: A new combination of old and COVID practices that will transform our work places.
  • What I am most looking forward to in post COVID life: camping and seeing my family in Michigan.

One of the things that has made COVID so different  from other events in my life is that this event has impacted every single aspect of my life. Nothing is the same, and I suspect your life has changed pretty dramatically too!

All of this prolonged change has made us scared, frustrated, angry, worried, stressed, tapped out and all of the other emotions you have.  Even the most emotionally intelligent among us has felt tapped out during COVID.

When we are stressed and exhausted, we can be a little short and snippy with each other.  Almost everyone I know has had this issue at one point or another in the past month, and we all need to just have a little grace with each other.

So how do we have grace with each other?

  • Acknowledge the moments where your attitude could have been better, make apologies as needed and lead by example. People will feel more comfortable acknowledging their low moments when leaders and acknowledged their own low moments. Making and accepting apologies as needed is huge and simply moving on is a great way to build relationships and figure out positive ways of working together.
  • Don’t take those moments personally. You may not always understand what someone is worried about, or what stressors they are having in the moment.
  • Give yourself a timeout when you need it. If you can’t shake your snarky tone give yourself some permission stop for a bit and figure out how to fix it and show back up better later. If people around you are taking a timeout, let them.  Don’t go to them unless it is an actual emergency and nobody else can do that work or make the decision.
  • Don’t let your bad behavior or your staff’s bad behavior slide too much. You can give people a little leeway, but you don’t want bad moments to lead to bad relationships that last longer than COVID.  This is especially true if the behavior isn’t normal for them, by checking in with them and you might get a better picture of what is happening and recommend support services as needed.

As the grind continues our teammates and staff will continue to feel stress and the other emotional ups and downs that we are all going through. As leads, supervisors and managers we have the power to help create some up moments for our staff members and we can do that in a lot of different ways.

  • Acknowledge the amazing work your teammates are doing in ways that are meaningful for them. Everyone likes to be recognized in different ways and it is helpful to take a little time to think about what you can do, and what is meaningful. If you have mid-year reviews coming up, document their work and praise in their reviews, Write notes or a letter for their file now so that you can accurately remember their COVID contributions later in the review process or if you get asked to be a reference down the road. I have also been writing thank you notes and sending emails to managers of staff who are doing great work so that they can make those notes.
  • Recognize the hard work, sacrifices and absences of staff. A lot of staff are contributing long hours and have been doing so over an extended period of time. Staff members are making a lot of sacrifices that mean less time with family, increasing the risk of exposure, and furlough days and layoffs mean financial impacts. People will always remember how you made them feel and how you treated them.  You don’t have to change the outcome of a situation to change how you treat them or how they feel.
  • As we pivot toward recovery and re-opening the economy think about how you can welcome staff back and ensure people know what has changed, the new realities they are facing and how you want to engage them in crafting a path forward.

Local government agencies all across this country are making difficult choices about how to move forward as the full impacts of COVID are realized.  That is stressful for everyone from managers to line staff, and council members to residents.

Together we will get through this, but people will remember the way they are treated and how we made them feel. With a little bit of grace and acknowledgement we can give people a better working environment, and better memories.

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