Tuesday, March 31, 2020

What to Do When a Colleague is Scared

Your reaction and advice is very important

The COVID-19 pandemic has got businesses on furlough, but work relationships continue via calls, texts, and Zoom. But the conversations don’t stay work-related very long. It’s natural though that an employee or a colleague will be extra fearful, and will have negative comments about the way the company is operating. Usually, we go straight to defensiveness and the worn out phrase, “these are unprecedented times for all of us.”

After all, who wants to hear about more problems right now?

Harvard Business Review give us a pretty good idea how to handle this awkward situation in three steps:

  1. Recognize the problem, not just the person. Sometimes, leaders already know the problem, they just weren’t worried about it. Sometimes, when the colleague brings it up, the attention shifts to the PERSON raising the issue (and sometimes the PERSON just wants attention). Focus on the problem at hand even if it’s uncomfortable! Remember, you can’t fix the problem if you don’t define it.
  2. Define the solutions for the present and the future. Develop a solution that will solve the issues not just today, but also in the future. I ask, “Is there an easy, immediate solution that we could employ?” Then decide if this is truly along-term problem that will need a more permanent solution.
  3. Appreciate appropriately. This can get tricky, because if you discern the issue was primarily a way to get attention, you don’t want to heap thanks on someone who will enjoy the attention and come up with another problem. But if it’s legit, and most are, don’t ostracize the person who came forward with the issue.It takes guts! And it shows they care! It means they believe in your capability as a leader to tackle the issues at hand. Plus, you often get to learn something new about the inner workings of your organization thanks to the scenario at hand.


If it’s a problem, solve it. The person is not a nuisance if they are elevating a real concern. Often, real issues are voiced by those who really care for the company.

Stay safe, and stock up on compassion!


Dr. Rob

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