Don’t Let Your Credibility Be Another Casualty of This Pandemic

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Credibility and trust take years to build, but they can be undone in an instant. Once lost, they are really difficult — and sometimes outright impossible — to rebuild.

We are living through the most stressful period of our lifetimes. A few fortunate people may be relatively unaffected, but in all likelihood, virtually everyone you know is feeling more stress than they normally do. In fact, 70 percent of Americans now say the economy is a significant source of stress for them, compared to 46 percent who said the same before the pandemic. One-third of Americans report experiencing “high levels of psychological distress” during the pandemic.

You’re probably experiencing similar feelings, especially if you’re an organizational leader. When you serve in a leadership role, people are always watching you and judging how you respond to things. They hold you to a higher standard than the average person — and they should. We must always be mindful of this fact, but especially during difficult times like right now.

Stress Can Undermine Your Leadership

With a few exceptions, running a business is extra stressful these days. You and I know that well. Still, we cannot let our own stresses make us lose sight of the stresses our team members are under. They may not have the same stresses that we have — in fact, their stresses could be even worse. You never know what they could be dealing with outside the workplace.

We business leaders must take our employees’ stresses into consideration every day. That stress should inform the decisions we make. It should influence how we talk with our teams and how we behave around them.

Perhaps you find yourself thinking: “I have worked so hard and taken on so much risk just to keep them employed right now. I am going above and beyond to help them. They should be grateful and give me some leeway.”

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Your team may know this already. They may understand where you’re coming from. But even if it seems obvious to you, remember that your employees may not know exactly what you’re dealing with as their leader. People who haven’t run businesses don’t have as much insight into the difficult decisions that go into keeping a company afloat in difficult times — and that is okay.

But no matter what your employees do or don’t know, they will be profoundly aware of how you treat them and how you speak to them right now. If you are stressed out and getting snappy, they notice. If you say or do things they perceive to be unfair, they notice. If you don’t listen to their concerns, they notice. If you lose your temper, they notice.

And they remember. As your stress-induced missteps stack up, they can start to undermine your credibility. Employees may lose trust in you and your leadership. As they lose trust, their performance will suffer.

Some people, especially those with whom you have built a lot of trust and credibility in the past, may be more patient and forgiving, but don’t take that for granted. They are under higher stress right now, too. If the boss they trust starts acting like a hothead at the helm, they will grow increasingly interested in jumping ship.

Your top performers will be the first ones looking to exit, as they know their skills are in demand elsewhere. If you lose them, your situation will only get even more stressful.

What Can You Do Right Now to Reduce Stress for Yourself and Your Employees?

People want and need a calm and steady leader, especially during stressful times like these. You are human, and you are dealing with a lot of your own stress right now. Acknowledge that reality and find ways to manage your stress so that it doesn’t undermine your leadership and business.

Once you acknowledge the situation, you can work to improve it. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, so start by analyzing yourself and your unique situation thoughtfully. The most important question to ask is: What stresses can you reduce for yourself and your colleagues?

Perhaps you need to tweak your priorities at work. Perhaps you need to tweak your priorities at home. Are you getting enough sleep, exercise, healthy meals, and rest time? All of these things impact us as human beings and are especially important during stressful times.

Take your stress level and your team’s stress level into consideration in all of your decisions. You’ll soon be able to strike a better balance that will help you, your team, and your business weather these challenging times.

Lauren Daugherty is the founder and CEO of Evergreen Wrapping.

By Lauren Daugherty