How Managers Screw Up Inclusion Efforts In a Pandemic

Adam Rosenfield Change Management, Communication, COVID-19, Diversity, Leadership, Managing People 0 Comments

In some ways, COVID-19 has changed how we work, both individually and for organizations as a whole.

The idea of remote working is different; it’s now not just a “benefit”. Many companies have finally discovered collaboration tools (Google Suite, Slack, Miro, etc) as a quicker way to get the message out and work on projects together.

Heck, some companies are even going all in, with Zoom happy hours, company show-and-tells (my personal favorite: Which 90’s NBA star is on my child’s wall?) or even surprise deliveries to employees for their birthdays.

But in some ways, companies, and managers haven’t changed at all.

Do any of these below sentences sound familiar?

“Hey Loretta, you should be glued to your phone waiting for emails”

“Excuse me Jamie, this is not how WE do things remotely”

“Hey Darrell, why are your three kids all over the Zoom today?’

“Rachel, I know you have that issue, but none of the other people on the call has it.”

Substitute names, activities, or various distractions, but the issue remains the same: an empathy gap still remains with many managers, and it is probably killing your inclusion efforts.

Managers Manage

There’s a reason they call them KPI Kevin, Compliance Chad, and Metrics Meghan- managers manage. They are bonafide taskmasters. Assignment wasn’t turned in? Gotta have a discussion. Is Internet connection spotty? Sorry, no excuse, work later. Not checking email quickly enough? Performance plan.

In this economy, there is even more pressure on managers to perform as layoffs and furloughs are announced en masse almost daily. Add to this the fact that managers can be siloed and lack training, specifically as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion, and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to the employee experience.

What Does Dis-Inclusion Look Like?

So what do those anti-inclusion (sometimes unintentional) efforts look like in practice?

Not Including Everyone on Your Team On an Email

Managers need to understand a few things, namely that (1) there isn’t a water cooler to dispose of necessary (and unnecessary) information and (2) With people not being in the office, sometimes this information can exist in a silo and not disseminate effectively to all team members.

Sometimes, this is done intentionally. Apparently “Mean Girls” still persist in the corporate world, and it is the most obnoxious thing when you’re trying to get a job done.

Unless it has to do with a termination, or some sort of other sensitive information, everyone in your departmental or team purview should be included on an email, no matter how minute the communication. Even the smallest missed communication can be amplified in a remote environment and can lead to anger, resentfulness or disengagement among a team.

A Lack of Understanding When It Comes to Employee Situational Differences

 It’s already stated that many managers have a one-track mind. As such, they may not be completely mindful of the situations facing other employees. Many managers forget the mantra that bears repeating; remember, this isn’t work from home, it is work from home during a pandemic.

Parents are now not only playing employee, but teacher, babysitter and peacemaker as well. Managers must be meeting with their employees in order to create inclusive solutions for each employee. If they aren’t, they risk first alienating, then frustrating their employee to the point of unproductivity, and then exit when the time is right.

This also brings me to my third point…

Demanding Immediate Responses

Sometimes it can be difficult to answer 500 emails when 3 young kids and a small dog demand an employee’s attention. Other times, the fault may be the company’s (lack of infrastructure, working computers, server issues) and a manager could be wholly unaware.

We live in a society that with all the technological advances, almost demands 24/7 communication. But let’s be honest; during this time, it is almost impossible. There is no such thing as 9 to 5 right now. There is already high anxiety among employees, and a manager forcing immediate responses risks a lack of quality work, and a high cognitive dissonance among employees.

Authority Bias

Ah yes. The “I’m always right” mantra, which can take a serious hold during a remote experiment. Authority bias is a huge issue when it comes to destroying inclusion efforts, as teams will most likely defer to the authority figure for fear of getting reprimanded, causing groupthink.

Groupthink is especially dangerous in a remote team setting during an uncertain time. Ideas can be prevented from coming to the surface, and individuality is lessened. If a manager thinks that they are always right, then they run a high risk of not getting the best ideas or valuable feedback.

Managers with a high authority bias tend to develop what is known as a bias “blind spot” in the process, which could show up in ways such as unintentional favoritism or compassion fade, even leading to microaggressions amongst team members.

When it all comes down to it, the key word for managers is empathy. We’re in an ambiguous, ever-changing situation, and everyone is scared. With empathy and a little hint of common sense, managers can keep a company’s inclusion efforts going, while helping guide their teams seamlessly through this crisis.

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