In 2020, COVID deepened a lot of the different cracks in organizations’ workplace cultures. Employees may have been aware of these cracks, but the pandemic brought them center stage as pressure was put on systems and processes in multiple ways.
As things begin to open back up, leaders have to take the opportunity to address these problems head on. Negativity in an organization does not simply go away, and people need to know that their concerns are heard, understood, and addressed.
As a leader, it’s your job to facilitate the process of identifying what your core problems are and providing tactical advice for halting them before they take down your organization.
Why COVID Catalyzed Culture Cracks
It’s basic human behavior to lash out at each other when stress is higher. This stress might come from fear, anxiety, or simple exhaustion. During COVID, this problem was exacerbated by a move to digital environments — anyone who’s ever read a nasty comment online knows it’s far easier to get away with poor behavior online than it is in person.
“If people were having difficulty behaving with one another in the regular workplace, it got worse during COVID,” says Tim Yeomans, Executive Vice President at FiredUP! Culture.
Sitting behind a keyboard, miles and miles from the people you’re interacting with, creates the perception of a shield. But that shield really only works one way. Bad behavior is easier to get away with but still just as painful for the people it hurts.
Adding to these problems was the simple fact that many processes were new. Zoom meetings, digital workshops, and other tools were suddenly thrust on teams in an effort to maintain workflows. These new processes may have caused additional frustrations for teams that weren’t used to them and didn’t get the resources they needed to adapt.
For everyone, adapting to COVID was a major challenge. But some organizations fared better than others. In most cases, this came down to solid values and great culture. Why? Because if you don’t have solid values, the creation of new processes is built on nothing. Things fail. People struggle and businesses don’t succeed.
How to Correct for COVID Cracks
Imagine you walked into a therapist’s office and they simply told you what your problems were without any information from you. There’s almost no chance that they’d be right, and if they were, you likely still wouldn’t trust them or enjoy the experience.
Everyone shares the struggles of COVID and everyone must share the experience of reconciling the difficulties that came out of it. Leaders must promote a collective gathering of insight and thinking that allows shared ownership and accountability.
“You’ve got to create a place where they genuinely get to give input, where they get to give observations, where they get to contribute, where they can see that their experiences have value. That’s what is so important coming out of this,” says Chris Ihrig, FiredUP! CEO.
Heal Wounds by Going to the Pressure
Before you can truly move on, you have to go back with intentionality and address issues that came up. It’s not easy, but leaders must go to the pressure, which means tackling oversights that happened during the pandemic head on.
Work on it intentionally, not to make things go away but to address issues and decide as an organization how you’re going to get better. Because if you don’t address the issues that COVID brought up, they’re just going to fester. They will come back. And when they do, you’ll end up paying the consequences twice.
As you go to the pressure, it’s also critical to go back and celebrate the things you did do well. You and your teams are likely long overdue for a pat on the back, but there’s got to be a balance. Nothing can be overlooked. Nothing simply goes away on its own.
Take the first steps in resetting your culture post-pandemic. Download our free resource: The Innovative Leader’s Guide To Transforming Company Culture…Starting With Yourself.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.