COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to some difficult conversations. Everyday life has been changed, and as creatures of habit, change has the potential to make us feel uncomfortable, emotional, anxious or even angry. Whether at work or home, some of the people we interact with are likely to have different points of view. Do you need some help navigating this tricky topic within your workplace? This is a guide for people leaders and anyone who might be supporting employees or families.
Accept that this is a difficult and emotive topic. Some people will need to go through an emotional process similar to the five stages of grief in order to accept the new normal. If you can recognise this, it will help you to be more patient and empathetic. Your role is to support people through this decision-making process - rather than finding the perfect wording. You may need to prioritise your own wellbeing to manage your own emotions and have the capacity to support others.
Provide Clarity and Support
Ambiguity is a known wellbeing detractor and leads to increased anxiety. Resist the urge to know all the answers; you can direct people to the right source to get accurate information.
- Vaccine safety concerns - direct people to their GP or Healthline
- Employment mandates, processes or safety concerns - ask HR, Union or refer to internal documentation
- Anxiety or other distressing emotions - EAP or call/text 1737
Encourage clear communications from all people leaders within your organisation in line with your policies. Ambiguity, miscommunication and inconsistencies will make the situation more difficult. Therefore, encourage employees to reach out to the right people and take the time to work through any concerns. Ensure any shared information is accurate, whether at an organisational, team or individual level.
“Together, we will work through any difficulties to keep you, the team and our customers or suppliers safe.”
This is an emotive and divisive topic; remind people that we want to be able to work alongside each other in the long term. We need to preserve our relationships. We recommend these ground rules to reduce the impact of awkward situations:
- Politely agree to disagree - You don’t have to agree to be able to work together. Many families and groups have decided to have this as a no-go topic. Consider this approach in team meetings, informal gatherings and other spaces where a connection is important.
- Have an available time and space for people to discuss this one-on-one if they need to. Ensure that they feel seen and heard by the Team Leader or Support Person.
- Be mindful of your emotions and those around you - If you need some time to cool off, remove yourself from the situation rather than allowing it to escalate.
- You could consider asking how the person has come to their opinion - it may help to shed light on the situation and enable a better conversation. Taking an approach of being “naively curious” helps to keep the emotions lower. Research shows that you are very unlikely to change their opinion until they are truly curious and open to an alternative point of view themselves.
- If you are concerned, talk to your manager or people leader
- Look out for each other and reach out for help early. You can always call 1737 or your EAP provider.