Kindness Matters is 2020 Mental Health Awareness week theme. So what do we think of when we hear kindness?
Considerate? Courteous? Generous? Thoughtful? Empathy? Sympathy? Supportive?
We all have our own definition of kindness, and I think we’d all agree, kindness matters.
As we are specialists in organisation behaviour and development we’ve been fascinated by how staff, managers and businesses have approached the recent COVID-19 Lockdown.
The range of behaviours we’ve seen range from as far as you can get from kind, caring and considerate to human kindness at it’s best. Tragedy, change, fear, and uncertainty certainly do bring out the best and worst in us.
As you can imagine we’re interested in organisation behaviour so we’ve been watching closely some of the best and worst practice.
Does Kindness Matter in Employment?
Kindness is not a term we associate with employment or management. Rather:
- Employer of Choice
- Good Employer
- Fair Employer
- Inspirational Leader
- Transformational Leader
- Great Manager
- Firm but fair …
… and the list goes on. In our experience kindness is often associated with being too soft or letting people off the hook.
You’re too kind or too nice to your team!
We’d argue being all of those things and more is actually kindness in employment. We’ve modified one of our culture maps to demonstrate just that. Take a look.
Our Kindness in Employment map has been modified from the work we do with clients. Later in the article we want to go back to managing in this current climate and supporting the return to work, new ways of working or in some cases redundancy. We want to demonstrate the importance of the human aspect of management. What can been seen above is how we might map out kindness in employment right now.
We do believe you can be kind in employment. If we counted how many times we’ve challenged managers during coaching or mentoring sessions for letting staff off the hook we’d be millionaires. Indeed our standard phrase:
You’re not being kind, you’re being chicken!
(For those of you outside of the North East UK, Chicken is used as a metaphor for being cowardly!)
To be clear, honest, and understanding is kind management. Setting clear goals, objectives, boundaries and standards of behaviour is kind management. Being human, not avoiding issues, or hiding behind procedure is kind management.
Which brings us on to leadership and management now.
Kindness in Employment Right Now
The media tells us we’re living in unprecedented times. How is that for you? What conversations have you been having with your family and friends? We’re guessing some will be adapting well, others are fearful, or frustrated, some may be unable to see what the future holds. Whatever is happening in your real life will be happening in the lives of your workforce because they have real lives too with the same diverse emotional responses.
We’ve created a traditional risk assessment.
We’ve seen these Risk Assessment Frameworks in the context of returning to work after Furlough leave or working from home. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them. They keep our:
- workplace compliant;
- employees safe;
- safety interventions in place;
- decisions relevant and appropriate to the hazard and risk;
- on-going review process in place as conditions change.
So that’s great. A framework for returning to work safely. But how many of us used a similar process before or in the early stages of lockdown? Does this type of process feature in your Business Continuity Strategy? Do you have a mental health risk assessment for managing these types of situations?
This is not a criticism. Everything happened very quickly both in terms of lockdown and more so the lifting of some of the restrictions. In times of uncertainty, tragedy and vulnerability, employees need human kindness.
How Can We Learn from Traditional Risk Assessments
This is our version which should be used as a prompt before, during and after things like COVID-19, large-scale change projects, TUPE transfers, and wherever there is a risk of causing vulnerability. You can also follow this in absence management and maternity leave, etc.
We’ll quickly take you through this. If you’d like us to support your managers with this in practice, please get in touch.
What’s the Risk? So in terms of COVID-19 you’ll be looking at things like:
- who within the workforce lives alone;
- who has a history of mental health issues;
- has anyone disclosed issues within the home such as domestic violence, children with special needs, a close family member with a critical illness;
- is there anyone who is likely to become isolated from the company and colleagues; or
- those under current performance sanctions, or currently absent due to long-term illness.
The list is not exhaustive.
Who is at risk of harm? Taking the above a step further we then identify those people at risk and put a strategy in place. From the outset ensuring they can be clear about what to expect from their line manager, and answering questions and concerns before any change occurs.
Discuss Support, Sign-post Support and Maintain Contact. This relates to all staff. As human beings we need contact and like to feel cared about. It’s important that staff know where to go for support and have good sign-posted resources as an everyday asset to their well-being, but reinforcing this is essential during these times. When we say maintain contact, we mean genuinely ask how they are, how they are coping, ask about family and friends. Work issues in the early days of change are secondary and can be discussed at any time. Set time aside to maintain human contact.
Answer Questions, Actively Address Concerns and Keep Channels of Communications Open. Clarity brings confidence. We find in the absence of fact or communication speculation turns to rumour and rumour becomes reality in the minds of our staff. Be clear and consistent in the message of the management team. Where concerns are expressed actively address them so that you understand where the apprehension or vulnerability is coming from. Be proactive in your communication and keep it regular.
Constantly Review and Communicate as soon as the situation changes. Like any risk assessment or human interaction, if something is triggered, a situation escalates or deteriorates, a review is required in order to change the approach. Even if there is no change, it’s worth stating the obvious – “nothing to report today”. Adopt an approach that brings clarity and openness. Sometimes a Q&A is a great resource. It allows staff to get the message at the same time and your open channels of communication encourages them to come to you with questions.
Remember, this is a whizz through ideas on keeping the mental wellness of your staff healthy. Contact us if you’d like help.
Kindness matters in employment. A kind employer has great leaders who are human, clear, live and set organisation values and direction. For us that’s being kind!