COVID-19 has impacted every industry and organization. But amid difficult decisions and shifting priorities, leaders must communicate more effectively than ever before. How do you do just that in the middle of a pandemic?
Put people first. Treat everyone in your organization with empathy. The implications of COVID-19 are far-reaching, both personally and professionally. Leaders need to show compassion in times of crisis and show their people that they care about them, first and foremost.
Don’t pretend it is business-as-usual, when it clearly is not. Be honest and direct about what you know and don’t know in terms of business practices and how COVID-19 is going to affect your business. Acknowledge the situation and adjust your expectations to a reasonable level. Many people cannot perform their responsibilities in the same ways when working from home, so find a way that you can help employees adapt in ways that work for them.
With COVID-19, we’re living in a highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented situation. Inevitably, difficult decisions will need to be made, so take time to make sense of current events in terms of the impact on your organization. Figure out a process for decision making that incorporates crowdsourcing ideas from your team. Including your employees in decision making and sense making will give them a greater sense of inclusion and buy-in for the rapid changes in business practices that will enable you to regroup successfully.
Share valid sources of information from the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization or well-respected academic institutions with your staff. Providing high-quality information can help to alleviate stress related to fear mongering and uncertainty, as it can be overwhelming to sift through the rapidly growing mountains of information related to COVID-19. It is especially important to educate your essential staff regarding best practices for social distancing and sanitization in your industry.
In times of uncertainty, anxiety runs high, so create an environment in which people can feel comfortable openly discussing their concerns and fears. Address people’s concerns, and share a sense of comradery. We are all in this together. Consider implementing new methods of communication such as Slack or Microsoft Teams to allow employees to continue to feel connected during this time of isolation. It’s also a great idea to provide employees with support resources for mental health, well-being, and other social support like unemployment and local food resources, if appropriate.
About Our Experts
Josie Ganzermiller is a lecturer on the full-time faculty of the Carey Business School, specializes in persuasion and social influence in professional leadership and health communication. Here, she recommends communication practices for organization leaders during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.