Authentic communication can be problematic in the best of times but becomes challenging and critical during a crisis. By drawing on available resources and attempting to maintain a real connection with your employee, you can work together to solve the situation’s problems and maintain a relationship despite challenges.
First, it is essential to acknowledge that they are a person with multiple roles in life, both to yourself and the employee. They may have family concerns and obligations that, especially amid a global crisis, are as pressing to them as their challenges as an employee. You can demonstrate a desire to understand and accommodate their other roles by giving your employees space to freely talk about them. Ask open-ended questions about their family obligations and different positions, and listen intently to their answers.
In general, when talking to someone who is in the midst of a crisis, it is essential to remain neutral. People have a broad range of emotional reactions to stress and challenges, and staying open to all of them is a crucial aspect of authentic communication. When your employee feels that they will not be judged for talking about feelings of fear, anxiety, or being overwhelmed, you will be able to understand their challenges and offer thoughtful solutions.
Once you have established a good foundation for open communication and understand your employee as a whole person, you will be able to offer appropriate solutions. Be thoughtful about what resources are already available to them. Does your health plan cover mental health resources? Could you be flexible about someone’s work schedule to allow them to be more present at home, if necessary? Come to the conversation ready to advise about what is already available to your employees, but be prepared to adapt and be flexible when possible.
Finally, when attempting authentic communication, it is essential to acknowledge that you are also a human being with your ideas and feelings. As much as possible, remain neutral to criticism, take care of your mental health, and offer yourself the same flexibility and care so that you too can weather the crisis successfully.