Coronavirus: Leadership Tips - Managing Fear While Encouraging Hope
January 27, 2020
Anxiety about a possible spread of communicable disease – such as the Coronavirus – is understandable, even unavoidable as Network and social media coverage increase. And from a human emotion perspective, fear makes perfect sense – viral disease of any kind often triggers a vague and shadowy dread, as we are told of a threat without clear indications of what we can do about it.
Based upon the available information, the situations surrounding the nature of the Coronavirus, governmental actions such as travel restrictions, quarantines, and organizational decisions for offices, travelers and study abroad programs, it should be anticipated that this disruptive event will likely last for months.
This is a perfect environment for panic, which does virtually nothing to address the challenge but does waste time, money, and emotional resources. Business leaders play a critical role in addressing these fears and helping employees feel safe and confident at the workplace; i.e. maintaining the continued operation of your people and your business. But most business continuity preparedness plans focus solely on medical or logistical issues; few address the emotional impact. Your plans are only as good as the people enacting them!
Here are some leadership tips that have proven effective in past public health challenges in managing the fear and encouraging hope and resilience:
- Task One: Maximize employee trust and effectively communicate risk and health information
- Ensure you have appropriate crisis management and travel risk support
- Communicate early and often
- Share what you know and what you don’t know as the situation develops, with the assurance that you will share info as it becomes available and is verified
- Identify a consistent messenger with authority to disseminate information
- Use a flexible style of communication
- Ensure a two-way dialogue with monitoring of employee feedback
- Be attentive and responsive to the wide variety of responses in the work group
- Task Two: Maximize adaptive behavior change
- Create a central source of authoritative information regarding corporate response, resources, updates, etc.
- Access and distribute fact sheets from a reliable source
- Describe rationale about any policy/operational changes (travel restrictions, etc.)
- Ensure equal access and distribution of resources
- Task Three: Reduce negative social and emotional impact and improve healthy coping
- Distribute information about coping and emotional self-care strategies via social media, print, website, etc.
- Promote Resilience – set manageable goals, maintain optimism, take reasonable steps to ensure safety, encourage giving/receiving emotional support in creative ways, etc.
- Utilize your EAP for telephonic support and as resource for information, or contact R3c if you don’t have one (R3c Response Center Disruptive Event Hotline at 1-888-736-0911 x1.)
- Task Four: Support key personnel in critical functions
- Train leaders within the workforce on the importance of stress management and psychosocial support
- Empower staff with promotion of reasonable work adaptations (allow time to care for children if schools are closed, etc.)
- Recognize that a range of emotional reactions (grief, anger, fear, etc.) are normal responses to this highly unusual situation
- Check-in often with information, support, and encouragement
For those organizations that have additional questions or are in need of support, please contact the R3c Response Center Disruptive Event Hotline at 1-888-736-0911 x1.