I’m sure you’ve all seen the quote, though most of you are probably incorrect about the origin; that’s a post for another time. (About things we all believe that we learned on the internet that aren’t true, which is tangentially related here.)
The idea, of course, is that people generally forget what you said or did, but they remember how you make them feel. It is memorable and quotable because it’s true, especially in a crisis.
I’ve written a few times since last year about how, as we went through a series of losses last year, the one thing that became very clear was that we have people in our lives that we can count on to look out for us, support us, and lift us up, and people that, it turns out, we couldn’t count on.
What we are dealing with now is not that different, and while I could probably write a book on the interpersonal implications of this, I want to instead focus on the professional world.
To make a metaphor of my example from last year, we’ll remember the people in our personal and professional lives who made efforts to stay connected online, support other people, share useful information, and encourage us. And, we’ll remember the people who shared conspiracy theories or false information or continued to make this a political issue. I know I may not remember the exact words or the exact acts, but I’ll know in a crisis that this is not someone I can trust, and maybe isn’t even someone I will continue to be connected to online going forward.
Because at a time when we are all on edge, anxious, angry, and even scared, they offered nothing but more of that. Interacting with them made us feel worse, not better.
Similarly, people will remember how their workplace made them feel and the workplaces of the people close to them. The companies who took steps to protect their employees, the companies who did everything they could to take care of their employees before themselves, the managers who checked in on employees suddenly working from home with or without extra challenges like kids or elderly parents to care for, the ones who let all of their employees feel like someone cared about what they were dealing with and wanted to help them navigate this challenge.
Perhaps even more importantly, they’ll remember the bosses and companies that made them feel like they were not cared for. Sadly, I’ve seen way too many mentions of the law firms where the partners all worked safely from home while the staff was expected to be in the office all day. Or the corporations who offered no paid leave for the shutdown, or the bosses who delegated more and more work to their subordinates because they had their kids to take care of, or worse, the bosses who’ve used this as an excuse for their teams to just being connected 24×7 since “we’re all home anyway”. What kind of feeling do you think they’re taking away from this time?
No, none of those things will make your team feel good about working for you. Sure, nothing might come of it for a while. After all, with the economic downturn this is going to cause, the power in the job market will likely shift temporarily, and you hold most of the cards now. But you’ll have a disengaged staff, who won’t go the extra mile for you anymore, and who will not hesitate to jump ship when an opportunity comes to them. Can your business afford that? Do you really believe there is no cost to you from poor staff morale and high turnover? Rest assured, there is, and it’s a pretty huge cost too.
Let me leave you with this final remark. During a crisis, there will always be those who stand up to find ways to come together and help and those who shrink away from that or expose themselves as petty, selfish people. Which one do you want to be remembered as after this is over? Which one do you think people will want to work with when this is over?
Those are the things we will remember. As many of us feel as vulnerable and uncertain as we ever have in our lives, did you help with that or make it worse?
I was already working from home, so the company has done a few things to check in on me and make sure I have what I need to continue to be successful; I’ve no complaints on that front. No one there is making me feel worse, but I can say this about the people outside of there who are making it worse; they will not be welcome in my life, personal or professional, going forward.