Video Transcript

Hi. It’s David Patmore here, from CAL Corporate Solutions, with a quick thought in relation to one of our workshops called Leading the Exhausted Workforce.

This title we borrowed from a Harvard Business Review article, which I believe really captures the sentiment of the moment for so many people facing leadership challenges after the last two to three years. In summary, the article said, whether we realise it or not, everyone is exhausted, and people are coping with the collective grief and trauma that was experienced on a global scale in that last two to three years.

We might feel that just because things may have gotten back to some form of normal, that this isn’t as relevant, but I believe it is. And certainly all the latest research coming in is showing us that there is an impending people management crisis on its way. This is evidenced by many examples I believe we’re seeing in the workplace, certainly I’m seeing those. Things like overall drop in people’s communication effectiveness, like with the poor use of either tools or even they’ve got digital literacy issues. Certainly an increase in customer complaints and aggression, and the fallout of that to teams, it’s definitely huge at the moment. Productivity and engagement issues. This is a big one, retention risk issues, with people citing mental health as the number one reason why they want to change or leave their job and in many cases, which I believe is unprecedented, leaving without another job to go to.

Certainly, anxiety levels increase as people look to a more uncertain future, and we can see that in their behaviors. The trauma and grief and impact of the force changed their lifestyle over the last two to three years, and just all of that being bottled up. The increase of workplace conflict, the general inability to cope with workload and workplace pressures, and just people’s ability to have empathy and patience for their colleagues when they feel like they’re not coping themselves.

Even though we may not have as many of these types of limitations placed on us from the last couple of years, certainly currently, what we do have is a silent emotional compounding interest situation. The negative emotions and over-spill of things like grief and loss, change trauma that has been stacking up, and whether we realise it or not, is rapidly turning into a looming crisis for leaders.

Here is another quote from the article, which I believe hits it on the head. “All of these behaviors, different as they may be, are responses to the overwhelming circumstances people are facing as we move into the third year of the pandemic. Nearly everyone has lost someone or something, a job, a relationship, their peace of mind. Any hopes for a clear definitive end of the pandemic are dashed, we are post-emergency but still in crisis.” And it goes on to say, “Leaders aren’t therapists, and shouldn’t try to be, but people are coping with collective grief and trauma on a global scale, which means leaders have to learn and exercise new skills. There are steps you can take to foster healthy coping mechanisms and discourage unhealthy ones, help ward off some of the typical mistakes that people make under pressure, and ensure you don’t cause additional anxiety on top of what people are already dealing with.” So, what does all that mean?

I believe leaders can’t rely on their traditional skillset, but have to dig a little bit deeper to learn new skillsets to maintain relevance and connection to their teams. So here are a few things that you can do to lead an exhausted workforce. Now, don’t stick your head in the sand, because that is the way you personally cope with everything. Stay alert and aware. Certainly acknowledge and identify some of all the telltale signs in your team, like the list I gave you earlier. Develop a proactive plan to support these issues through consultation and collaboration with your team. Ensure that your plan has an intentional two-way trust strategy built into it, right at its center. And become a role model of self-care, so don’t withdraw, remain open and honest about how you cope with things. Because it’s all about the humanity being front and center in this season. Robin Abrhams and Boris Groysberg