Forward and epilogue: Chuck Tobin
More frequently media channels and professionals in the Human Resource and Security communities are discussing the topics of remote work, the coronovirus’ (COVID-19) impact on stress and resiliency, and how organizations can find a path forward in such challenging times. It is recognized that COVID-19 has produced stresses that even the most robust people struggle to overcome. Fear of the unknown, fear of job security, and perhaps even a loss of direction can have an incredible impact on an individual’s perspective. These things coupled with a loss of social engagement, forced work from home conditions, and limited options to participate in normal coping activities are sure to create a storm of behavioral challenges for employers.
At AT-RISK International, we regularly write about threat assessment and the impact relationships, social network, workplace, financial, and physical/mental health have on an individual’s risk potential. As we look at the current COVID-19 scenario we are almost going through a checklist. Yes – social networks are impacted, yes – financial status is impacted, yes – physical/mental health is impacted, yes – family and intimate relationships are impacted and finally, yes – the workplace is impacted. Any single individual may currently struggle with life changing decisions and the lack of coping mechanisms presents a tsunami of behavioral challenges for Human Resource and Security professionals.
But as we look at the evolution of risk, it is a good idea to be reminded as security professionals that much of what we hope to do in threat assessment, is to address behavioral problems before they become security problems. In this light we should lean on our Human Resource partners to diminish risk. It seems appropriate that our Vice President of Human Resources, Kateryna Bender, shares her thoughts on being an effective manager during these trying times.
When I moved to the United States in 2008 from Ukraine and stayed at home waiting for my immigration status to change, I felt so detached from the world. No parents, no friends, and no connections. Modern video conferencing hadn’t quite evolved, so I could only have telephone conversations with my distant contacts. As a result, I felt very lonely. I thought it was the hardest period of my life, but little did I know that 12 years later, staying at home would be a completely different experience for me.
A little over three months into social distancing due to COVID-19, I find myself staying at home again however now I am looking at it from the standpoint of a business professional responsible for leading and managing a team. This consumes much of my daily thought. How do I support my team? How do I support my organization? How do I continue to lead and grow?
We all react to stress in different ways while sharing the pressures of due dates, results, and productivity. Adding different time zones, different cultures, and various client engagements, can all be overwhelming. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience you have under your belt as a manager, there will always be continued work to do.
I like to say that an effective manager is not always someone born with a natural ability to connect with people. We can teach ourselves to be effective managers. Our drive and determination can create a lot of positive energy around us. With this idea in mind, I suggest we find a new beginning for the word COVID:
If I were to choose one most important thing it would be connection with your team. Know who your employees are. Learn about their hobbies and learn about their lives. This will help you to understand them better. I have been working for AT-RISK International for 10 years and every year when I have my performance review, I am asked about my personal goals. It makes me feel special and it makes me feel that the company cares…and it is an easy conversation to have.
There is no way we would be successful in life without being optimistic. The best is yet to come. We all have good days and bad days but the hope that things eventually will get better always drives us through the worst of times. I always tell my team “I am optimistic things will get better,” and at some point in the future we will finally get together again for the next team gathering to talk about our weekends over a cup of coffee while sitting in the same office. If your team doesn’t feel optimism from you as a leader it might be hard to convince them to be creative, stay productive, and continue to build your organization from good to great.
Showing who you are is important. Your weakness is your strength. We all have our weaknesses and our flaws which make us who we are. These are also the things that make us all great. For example, my biggest personal vulnerability is my language. No matter how hard I work at it, English will always be a foreign language. Perhaps some of you reading this blog and who live your life speaking a foreign language can relate. Think about it though as your strength (it took me a long time to start thinking this way), at least you speak several languages. My team and I always have a lot of laughs around the expressions that I come up with. My vulnerability has become a source of some positive energy.
One of the first expressions I heard since moving to the United States is “follow your nose, it always knows”. I realize that I have been living my life trusting my instincts. Sometimes even when our head says “yes”, and the instinct says “no” it probably is a “no”. A good manager always must listen to their instincts. Don’t let your pragmatic side take over. Give your “feelings” a chance. We all have them. I have read that some of the most successful entrepreneurs and business owners are those who have a strong intuition. I tend to agree with this.
As managers, we are sometimes tasked with things we may not like to do. For me, delivering unpleasant news is one of those tasks. I find that if you don’t connect with your team and you don’t know how to deliver good or bad news it will be hard to become their mentor, and most importantly, become their leader. We all are doing our best to take the emotions out of the workplace and be professional.
Being a successful manager during this time may be a challenge for some of us, regardless of the level of authority, industry, or country. Remote communications have been a part of my life for a long time, I just never realized it until not too long ago we all were tasked to stay at home due to the COVID-19. Think about ways to bring some of your personal experiences into this “new norm” and remain strong and faithful.
Kateryna is truly touching on some of the foundations of the work we do whether as a manager or as a professional in threat assessment. To properly diminish the risk of unwanted events from employee actions, we must know our employees. Perhaps it is not so amazing, but over the years of doing threat assessment cases we have routinely encountered supervisors and managers who could only speak to the performance of their employees in the workplace. They had little to no idea on how they were doing away from the office. This usually resulted in negative factors impacting work performance with no insight from the manager as to why. But now, with employees working from home managers are in a great place to engage on a more personal level with their employees. Get to know what makes them tick. What is happening in their lives that is perhaps impacting their work performance. Stress of the children at home and tele-schooling while working; stress from a possibly combative domestic partner who is always close by; stress from financial insecurities…the list goes on and each of these factors may be top of mind for your employees. Being more engaged, following Kateryna’s model will make you more informed and able to identify potential performance, or worse, violence risks. Once identified you can engage with your Human Resource partner, Threat Management team or third-party consultant to address the matter before it escalates.
Let’s take this opportunity to engage with our employees. Make COVID a word you don’t fear. Make COVID your Human Resource solution to Connection, Optimism, Vulnerability, Instincts and Delivery (COVID) for a better, more resilient work force.