Publish date September 25, 2020
Balancing between the delicate emotional needs and company profit and loss statement
Last week, I was thrilled to bump into an old colleague, and I started the conversation with a customary greeting, “How are you?” The initial smile on his face disappeared with a palpable pause as if he was searching for the right answer. Finally, he confided in me about the ordeal, the current crisis (COVID-19) has brought, both at a personal and professional level.
It made me wonder how such a casual question was enough to expose the underlying fragile mental and emotional health that we are undergoing not just as selective individuals but as a society as a whole and its accumulative impact on our businesses and economy.
This brings me to the last blog of the series ‘from survive to thrive’– the need to create an emotionally stable business ecosystem. To me, this is the most critical piece of the puzzle. Without an emotionally secure ecosystem, the other two aspects of discerning opportunity in the midst of a crisis and preparing the future workforce are irrelevant. The whole establishment, be it a society, economy, or business, could all crumble in a jiffy if there is threat to our collective emotional or mental stability. History suggests enough evidence of the rising suicide rate, crime, drug abuse, and mental illness after every economic and social crisis. To determine the journey from survive to thrive, it is imperative to strengthen this fundamental aspect – the emotional and mental well-being of our people, employees, partners, customers, and society as a whole.
Writing about creating an emotionally supportive business environment, my first thought drifts back to the famous book of Daniel Goleman’s “Emotional Intelligence” (EI). Since its publishing back in 1995, EQ became a buzzword in the business fraternity. In Daniel’s words “”people with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.” Hence, it has never been more important than now when dealing with a range of overwhelming emotions that involve a threat to our lives and livelihoods. So, the question is:
How we, as individuals, leaders, or organizations, support the construct of individuals, our economy, business, and society through “emotional intelligence”?
Let’s revisit the encounter with my colleague. His initial hesitation to my question soon dissipated, and he was able to open himself up to me. What could have possibly changed his mind? Mutual acceptance, trust, the comfort of being heard and cared for are probably some of the attributes that helped him confide and find solace. These are core human attributes that we have absorbed since childhood that form the very basis of emotional intelligence. Yet, when it comes to a business environment, we have been conditioned to suppress our emotions or hesitate to express these rudiments towards others.
Today, as we are navigating through unpredictable and sudden disruptive change, our self-regulation and social awareness are incoherent. This triggers a range of emotions such as heightened sensitivity, distress, insecurity, grief. Even the smallest of change, such as working from a new location or the need to adapt to unfamiliar technologies, compounds these sentiments resulting in myriads of unregulated reactions of shock, denial, anger, and depression. Imagine an organization grappling with such extreme emotions!! Together these can potentially start a world war, leave alone the propensity to survive and thrive.
Building an emotionally supportive culture is crucial to help organizations navigate through the different changes unfolding with the new normal. While the term ’emotional intelligence’ has different dimensions, but I believe it is simple acts of humanity that foster an organizational culture of solidarity and acceptance. Acts such as attaining a keener awareness of the surroundings, showing empathy to better tune into others’ emotions, showing kindness and compassion to make others feel genuinely cared for are just a few examples that help rebuild a community and refocus on organizational goals and emerge stronger. Leaders are uniquely positioned to demonstrate ‘emotional intelligence’ and cascade these acts of compassion throughout the organization, thereby building an emotionally supportive ecosystem.
Initiatives such as four working days in a week, unlimited sick leaves, etc., are just a few examples that companies are embracing to cultivate a supportive environment. As for YASH, we believe that financial security is one of the key aspects that play a crucial role in reinstating the emotional stability to sustain physical and psychological well-being. We aim to provide authentic re-assurance through different financial aids, ensuring that our employees feel secured and are being taken care of in one or more crucial aspects:
Being a people-oriented organization, our primary goal is to ensure the safety and well-being of our people. Therefore, we provide complete flexibility to work from home, with no mandate to come back to the office.
While employees are one of the key stakeholders, these acts need not be limited to just employees rather extended to stakeholders’ entire ecosystem. Offering discounts to partners, extending payment duration, or accepting a fee cut from customers are a few examples to ensure that the ecosystem survives and thrives together.
Whether within or outside the organization, celebrating acts of kindness and compassion is one of my favorite ways to encourage people to embrace the circle of kindness. At YASH, we make sure that each act, even at an individual capacity, is acknowledged and celebrated. These acts of kindness and compassion flow from a heart of love towards others. Remembering the two greatest commandments of Jesus to mankind – “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ We strongly endorse this quote and make every attempt at weaving kindness and compassion thru love as part of YASH’s corporate culture. To reinforce our appreciation and gratitude culture and cultivate solidarity, we have revamped our rewards and recognition program under the category vRise. This is a platform to encourage employees to express their gratitude towards one another and earn points and win YASH souvenirs.
While leaders play as role models to ensure others’ emotional and mental well-being, this does not mean that they have to cast an ironman image and exhibit complete control of the situation. In fact, being bold enough to display vulnerability makes them a lot more relatable. My interaction with my colleague was a lot easier, probably because I have hardly hesitated to discuss my problems with him in the past, and he knew that I would understand without passing any judgment. This relatability, in some way, validates the heightened emotions as normal and gives people the open space for honest and free emotional processing. An open culture redirects people to move past the stress and anxiety and refocus on their work and the organization’s goal.
Finally, leaders can help facilitate this transition from stress and anxiety to a stable work environment by re-channeling people’s energies towards positivity. Sometimes re-acknowledgment of past achievements as a team or even an individual’s achievements or focusing on the few positive things happening around us help alleviate the distress and reignite the withering confidence. At YASH, we harness the healing power of music to usher positivity and bring our people together. We also make sure that festivities are not forgotten amidst this chaos and have been celebrating all festivals virtually.
On a personal front, I try to focus on the bright side of what the lockdown has brought along. I cherish every bit of the family time that we get to spend these days. In fact, I managed to find a new hobby of cooking along with my 10-year-old daughter. This acts not just like a therapy for me, but also helps me to reconnect as foodies with my older daughter.
To wrap up, in times of crisis as this, it is rather natural for leaders to act with urgency, focus on the task at hand, and keep the organizational engine up and running. The need to cater to the individual needs of the people often gets overlooked. However, this singular view of prioritizing balance sheets over people’s emotional needs may have a devastating impact in the long run. Leaders should make a deliberate attempt to create an emotionally supportive ecosystem for the organization to just not survive but thrive in the new normal.
In closing, I feel Covid-19 is our calling to humanity, a calling to become more compassionate, be more aware of the surroundings, and respond to others’ needs. It allows us to rise above our myopic vision and see fellow humans beyond their roles and relationships. In the corporate context, this essentially means humanizing clinical, corporate culture by treating our employees, customers, or partners as “people” first. By comforting and addressing our stakeholders’ concerns on the one hand and cultivating awareness, compassion, and empathy on the other, we can create a culture of solidarity, hope, and acceptance.
Let us consider this as an opportunity to halt and reflect on what’s working and what’s not. An opportunity to reset and reimagine the way forward. In this transitional journey, let’s emerge as humans first and build a resilient and thriving post-crisis future.
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