Since August, we have seen unprecedented destruction and loss here in the U.S.
White nationalists, armed with weapons and Nazi flags, besieged Charlottesville, with one of them ramming his car into a crowd of protesters, injuring several and killing Heather Heyer. Wild fires have raged across eight U.S. states, forcing many to evacuate. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ripped through Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, leaving many people without power, communications, and even basic necessities, like water, food and shelter. And then last night, a gunman on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas senselessly took aim and killed 58 people and injured 500 more who were attending the Route 91 Harvest concert.
The crises have left most of us reeling emotionally, and it’s hard to think about “business as usual” in the midst of it all. Yet, for people who were physically unaffected by the events, it also seems like the perfect time to ask “What if it happened to me/us?” No doubt, if your corporate headquarters or branch offices were hit by catastrophe, your organization’s leaders would step in, make the hard decisions and issue guidance. Furthermore, employees would be “in it together,” experiencing the same pain and working to bounce back as a team.
However, what if just one of your remote employees was affected? What if one person lost power for days or even weeks? What if his home was flooded and his company-issued PC, phone and files were destroyed? What if she lost her home altogether or, worse, a loved one? Most likely, you’d be the one to manage the aftermath, and it goes much deeper than just lost material items.
I live about 20 minutes north of Charlottesville. I’ve spent many a day on the downtown mall where Heather Heyer was murdered. While I stayed away from the protests on August 12, the enormity of what happened that day deeply affected me. It still sneaks up on me like a sucker-punch to the gut. I remember being glued to my phone and Twitter, hoping beyond all hope that no one I knew had been hurt. I remember how terrible it felt to explain the tragedy to my 7-year-old. I remember being distracted for days, unable to focus on anything else. I can only imagine how the people of Vegas are feeling right now. How they’ll feel in the weeks and maybe months to come.
While water recedes, the power comes back on, infrastructure is rebuilt, and bullets and glass are cleared, the emotional scars remain. So I ask you to think beyond “just getting the work covered” in the event that one of your remote employees experiences the kind of large-scale event that leaves an indelible mark.
Understand that some things are near impossible to “just get over.” Show some empathy, offer whatever support you can, and be patient with people as they work to rebuild and recover from what could be one of the worst days of their lives. Bring your team together to not only cover for the employee, but to figure out ways you can help your remote coworker from a distance. Effective leadership isn’t just about “getting things done.” It is also about uplifting your employees when they need it most.
If you have led your virtual team through one of these crises or others, we would love to hear your stories. Your experiences and the lessons you learned could help others. Please share in the comments section.
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