We’re all so used to the catch phrases of the day, like, “Change is the only constant.” When we hear them, we think, “Yeah, yeah, yeah …” and look for something else of interest.
What we fail to realise is that the most dangerous change is the change that sneaks up on us unnoticed. And, while we’re busy nodding our heads knowingly about change being the only constant, we fail to see those changes that are popping up behind our backs.
Yes, sometimes change has a way of sneaking in the back door unnoticed.
And one of the changes that’s done that – in case you haven’t noticed – is the change to the employer-employee relationship over the past three years …
Before the pandemic, a certain relationship existed between employers and employees which didn’t take into account people’s personal lives, commitments, circumstances and feelings. The employer/employee relationship was conducted with a certain amount of formality and distance. Bosses kept their distance and didn’t get too involved in their employees’ personal circumstances. While in some cases that was out of respect for people’s private lives, in many cases it was because they simply didn’t want to get involved too much in their employees’ personal matters as that would mean they might have to exercise greater understanding and empathy in order to take those circumstances into account and make certain allowances for certain matters.
But that all changed when the pandemic arrived …
When everybody was forced to work from home, employees’ personal circumstances shot up the priority list because their personal circumstances – their homes – became their places of work. Managers quickly discovered that you can’t tell people what to do in their own homes. If a person wanted to work until 23:00 at night and then start work again at 11:00 the next morning, a manager could do nothing about it!
If children came running into the room and stared at the screen during a Zoom call, well, managers just had to suck it up.
Managers soon realised that they now had to deal with the whole person – and, very often – their whole family! And that’s become par for the course as anybody managing people today now simply HAS to take into account the whole person. No longer can a manager say, “Leave your personal issues at home. You’re here to do a job.”
If you’re one of those who, as you’re reading this, is becoming aware of the fact that this is a change you maybe hadn’t noticed, you’re moving in the right direction – you can and will never do anything about something of which you’re not aware. So awareness is the first, most important step.
But awareness is not enough. You actually have to DO something about what you’ve become aware. That means you have to start reflecting on the many occasions you might have missed an opportunity to show empathy for a distressed young mother who has deadlines and clothes lines to manage.
Many old school managers scoff at empathy, believing that, showing it is a form of weakness. It’s not. It takes a strong, emotionally mature, emotionally intelligent person to show empathy.
I therefore want to encourage you to step back, get some perspective and look at how you’re managing those employer/employee relationships. If you don’t move with the times, you’ll find that you’ll be unintentionally acting as a recruiting agent for your competitors who will gladly poach your dissatisfied best talent who seek out an employer who shows them some empathy!
If you’d like to learn more about “Charting a new HR path: Cocreate the employee-employer relationship”, it’s one of the many pain points that will be discussed at the HR Summit on 13 September at Sandton Convention Centre in the HR Trends Conference Room.
This year’s HR Summit provides you with an opportunity to personalise your experience on the day. You get to choose what Masterclasses you want to attend, which small group workshops you want to participate in, which one-on-one conversations you conduct with an expert or which product and services demos you watch.
Registration for HR Professionals is free if you REGISTER USING THE INVITATION CODE: HRFGuest.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net and @HRFuturemag. He is an internationally recognised authority on leadership competencies for the future and teaches experienced and younger business leaders how to lead with empathy, compassion, integrity, purpose and agility. He has been an Age Management Coach for two decades and is the author of parenting best seller What nobody Tells a New Father.