As the national response and recovery to COVID-19 continues to play out there are many elements and issues to consider. One thing that I have found to be true is that crisis can tend to bring out the best AND worst in people. The reality of the current situation is that very few people have ever been through a crisis like this before. Without a doubt, these are tough times. However, for employees on the “front line” it can be extraordinarily exhausting both mentally and physically. A local mom recently shared an experience her son is dealing with.
“My son works at a local store that is open during this crisis. He has told me stories about managers and staff at his store breaking down into tears because they are so stressed and afraid, and customers are rude and unappreciative. Please take a moment to be kind to the workers who are keeping these stores open…grocery stores, home improvement stores, Target, Costco, etc. Yes, they are fortunate to have a job right now - they know it and they don't need to be told that! A simple "thank you for all your hard work" or a reassuring smile would go a long way.
It’s so very disheartening to hear stories of employees being driven to tears. I wish it was as easy as asking people to be nice, but I’m not that naïve. Instead, it’s important for organizations to acknowledge the additional stress our employees may be under due to the way some customers and clients might treat them.
It’s so very important for us all to remember a few basic things about our employees:
Check in frequently with them.
Everybody deals with stress differently.
People want to be treated with respect and dignity.
We may not know what past issues somebody is dealing with.
Empowerment is taken, not given. It’s your job to create an environment that allows employees to feel empowered. They have to be comfortable setting boundaries.
We are still responsible for providing a workplace free of recognized hazards.
If you haven't already started, now is the time for organizations to start looking at reinforcing their regular businesses controls regarding unwanted and inappropriate behavior. Our employees want and need that familiar structure.
About the author: Mr. Hector Alvarez is a security expert who specializes in workplace violence prevention and a Certified Threat Manager™ by the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals. He holds a BS in Criminal Justice and a MS in Forensic Psychology. He has built over 25 years of threat management, security, domestic terrorism and crisis management experience serving as a Security Director protecting one of our nation's most sensitive critical infrastructures, to working as a city police officer and as a professional security consultant. He understands the challenges individuals and organizations face when addressing the threats of violence because he has responded to them. He was a responder to both the Loma Prieta Earthquake and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.