Today, I read some well-meaning advice about what managers can do to create and sustain bonds with their people during the COVID-19 lockdown. Some suggestions were to act really casually and ask what people had for lunch and what they were watching on TV. The point being that this would strengthen the bonds between the manager and the team members.
And sure, it seems okay to ask those questions.
It’s okay, unless you are that boss who harasses or micro-manages people, who makes people’s lives miserable by moving in on their private lives – you know the one who pretends to be concerned when their employees are upset or ill and who will do whatever they can to manage the work environment so that the boss is ‘everything/everywhere’.
I attended a webinar last week on the topic of ‘Managing people in a WFH situation’ and to my absolute horror, several of the questions in the chat box were about how to find the best software to ‘monitor employees working from home.’
‘What?’ I asked myself ‘What just happened to the concept of trust?’
So, no, if you are suspicious of what your people are doing when they are working from home, it’s not a good idea to flag that and at the same time assume that they miss you and appreciate that you seem to care about what they had for dinner.
Sadly, in many cases, work contracts are generally just that. About work.
There are, of course, great organizations out there where it is more than just about the work. And if that refers to your company, well done!
Your relationship with your people is warmer and more personal due to your having invested in their health, safety and professional development and injecting a positive vibe into the work environment. You are a tribe, and everyone is the better for it.
I am one of the lucky ones to have experienced that. Some years ago, before I stepped out as an entrepreneur and company owner, I worked for an awesome company with a global reach. The corporate culture I experienced was amazing. Inspiring and empathetic. We were the culture. We took care of each other. We were inspired and we thrived. We were a tribe.
Fast forward to today: I run my own global business and I control what happens to me and I am there for my team. But I am still aware of those in the global picture, who are harassed in the workplace and are held down by predators. Silently. It happened to me at one point, so I get it. Luckily, I survived and moved on.
My advice to employees: ‘Don’t allow the sneaky infiltration into your life by so-called ‘best interests’, who ask about your lunch and your Netflix preferences.’
Stop them at the gate. Unless you know differently.
Instead, choose to generally trust that boss who starts a conversation when you are working from home with the question: ‘Is this a good time to talk?’ And the boss who acknowledges that, under these difficult circumstances, you are, in fact, allowing them to run their business from your living room, rent-free…
Think about that.
And to bosses I say this: Trust is where the bonding begins.