Staying calm in a crisis is something I have often needed to practice in my career in human resources. The particular crisis has varied. It has been, at times, an employee who was a danger to themselves or others. It’s also been the loss of a corporate client that necessitated layoffs. There have been fires and floods, untimely deaths and disruptions of all kinds. And just when I think I’d seen it all (or most of it), here comes the coronavirus.
All at once, my colleagues and I are spending a good part of the week on contingency plans and communications for our clients and partners, taking steps to safeguard the wellbeing of our employees, plus worrying about the risk to our families and friends. All businesses are dealing with these things, and in financial services, we are especially attuned to the level of freak out people are collectively having. Also, those of us with kids who would usually be at school or daycare are figuring out how to balance working from home with being personal chefs, referees and tutors. To anyone who is doing all this and not feeling stressed and exhausted, I have these reactions: Are you lying? Are you medicated? And if not either of those things, please tell me your secrets. Because this is difficult.
What I have found most helpful in the current chaos is relating to what other people are experiencing and figuring out how I can learn from what they are willing to share, or at least feel not alone in my situation. This post is my effort at giving back the same in return. I am far from saying I have it figured out, but I want to celebrate the things I know I’m getting more right than wrong. Here’s what I’ve got so far.1. I do better with routines and so do my kids.
No revelation there. However, my initial approach was to borrow from a homeschool schedule that some lovely organized person posted on Pinterest. It was color coded and well thought out. And it failed miserably. My kids were used to what they did at their school and this new schedule was unwelcomed. In my exasperation I said, “Fine, what do you want to do?” And they answered with a thoughtful list of ideas. I listened, I put their ideas on a white board, and we tried it the next day. It turned out we didn’t like the order of some things, so we made a few adjustments the day after that. Silly me, just like at work, it always goes more smoothly when you get people’s buy-in.
2. Being intentionally compassionate and accessible is real work, and it’s totally worth it.
My job is to take care of the people who take care of our clients. Uncertainty about the market, the healthcare system, and the economy will put people on edge. The very first thing we must do to help them is to reach them, and we can’t do that unless we are being human. No one is listening to this great info I have on telehealth resources or this smart advice a wealth manager has to share until they can tell that we care. Reaching out to say, “I am here. I want to know how you’re doing and how I can help,” sounds simple but it doesn’t happen enough because we are in such a rush to do all the things. I’m continuing to pour time into relationships because that’s the foundation for getting any of the things done.
3. We all know that we should ask for help when we need it, and there is probably somebody who will step up and help us if empowered to do so. (This includes your kids and that’s a whole other post.)
Oh but gosh, we don’t want to inconvenience anyone, or it will take less time if we just do it ourselves, or we like our way best and aren’t willing to give up control. The list of reasons goes on and mostly, they are garbage excuses. Please get over yourself, especially now. There will be no awards for stoicism. Additionally, I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel good when I know I’ve helped someone. My family, friends and colleagues would probably like to have that feeling right about now. As would yours. Keep that in mind the next time someone offers help. It’s a win-win: find a way to ease your burden and let them feel useful and connected.
Lastly, I made a Venn diagram to describe my own personal challenges. I hope people find this relatable or at least amusing. Please feel free to share your pandemic/HR/FinServ/working parent wisdom in the comments.
This material has been prepared for informational purposes only and should not be used as investment, tax, legal or accounting advice. All investing involves risk. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure a profit or guarantee against a loss. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors.