We try hard to maintain a positive work culture here at Spodek and Co., but sometimes “life” doesn’t play along.
And unfortunately, 2018 wasn’t a banner year for some people on our team. There were deaths and funerals, stressful moves and other personal upheavals.
And the world news wasn’t much better, with an upside-down government in the United States, and many domestic terrorism tragedies.
But through our positive work culture of support and understanding, we were persevering – work was getting done, clients were happy, and people were healing.
Then the Tree of Life Massacre happened – and that was the last straw.
Enough Was Enough
After what felt like one tragic news story or happening after another, I broke, and tears ran down my face during the ‘minute of silence’ tribute at that night’s Leafs’ game.
Later, several friends (and even their grown children) said they were taking social media breaks because they just couldn’t take the relentless stream of bad news any longer.
It became abundantly clear that people were exhausted, and I wanted to do something—anything—to try and soothe some of the sadness.
Regular Sanity Checks Help Ensure a Positive Work Culture
Rewind to the end of 2018. I knew that if I was feeling this bad emotionally, chances are my team was feeling the same. So, as I was planning out the agenda for Spodek & Co.’s biweekly team meeting, I wrote “BE KIND” in big block letters.
We all chatted briefly, and I did the “boss” thing of trying to boost morale, while reminding everyone to be kind to each other and mindful of each other’s stress levels, etc. It was also important to remind everyone that (believe it or not!) clients are people too, and they were probably just as emotionally exhausted as we all were at the moment.
And then something totally unexpected happened. A team member shared that her cousin was with Pittsburgh PD, and among those first on the scene at the Tree of Life Synagogue. He was physically unharmed, but witnessed the horror, and ultimately saved more lives from being lost.
Needless to say, we were all speechless. We had a team member in pain who could benefit from some human kindness. Had we not taken the time to address the recent tragedy and begin our meeting with a sanity check, none of would have known our friend had been so close to such a tragedy.
Sometimes it’s as Simple as Being Kind
Every Tuesday in my Facebook group for small business owners, I publish a “Tip Tuesday” post. I decided instead posting something about how to grow your business online, I decided to take a different approach and asked members the following question: “How do you keep morale high when there’s so much bad news?”:
Two comments stood out for me. Alison Garwood-Jones boiled it down to simple kindness. She sends out “digital notes to humanity” and makes a concerted effort to have eye contact with passersby, smiling at them wherever she goes.
Another member, Priya Bates, shared this sage advice: “Nothing beats a message from the heart from a leader or manager. Acknowledge the incident. Acknowledge feelings. Tell people it’s okay to feel the way they do. Remind them of the orgs values and how they come to life through people…authenticity is key…versus corporate rhetoric. (It’s also) a good time to ask managers to be visible and walk around to. Ask people how they feel and listen.”
Be Visible. Be Kind. And Listen.
There are many reasons why people may be feeling the blues this time of year. For some, it’s the looming “darkest days of winter.” For others, it’s the stress of running a business and meeting business goals – something familiar to all of us agency owners!
Or, it’s all of the above PLUS what sometimes feels like the never-ending bombardment of really horrible news.
Here are just a few ways you can help yourself, and your agency, through rocky times, and maintain a positive work culture.
Be Kind! Bring empathy and kindness into the workplace. It’s simple, really. Ask your team/colleagues how they’re feeling. Be mindful of clients and colleagues having bad days.
Treat those around you with some TLC. Even surprise and delight team members with notes or small gifts if you can.
Talk and Listen. When you’re actively being kind (see above!), make a point to really be present. We’re all busy. I get it. But sometimes a person just needs to connect with another human being and be listened to. Make yourself available for a check-in periodically – especially if you run a virtual company like I do. Usually a quick chat, a few face-to-face laughs, can make the news of the day easier to take—for all of us.
Recognize the Importance of Self-Care. Make this part of your agency ethos! “Me time” helps everyone refresh, rejuvenate and clear their minds. A much-needed exercise especially in times like these. In our agency, team members know they can be honest about when they need a little self-care… something that’s valued highly.
I’m the first to admit I go for manicures every two weeks – I’m still available to clients and the team by phone, email and Slack. I even take Pilates classes twice a week. Another team member goes bowling one morning a week, and a couple of others attend their children’s school events. Heck, last week I signed off for our newest team member to have a day at the spa! And I post a self-care reminder every Saturday in our Facebook group that receives a lot of positive engagement.
Positive Work Culture: Lead by Example
Unfortunately, bad news doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
If it’s getting to you and you’re feeling down, chances are your colleagues and clients are feeling the same way.
Use these tips to help keep team morale up and productivity on track. Your employees will appreciate your efforts towards maintaining a positive work culture, and the office will be a much happier place in which to work.
How do you manage so all this bad news doesn’t have a negative impact on work and productivity? How do you foster a positive work culture in your office or among your team? Please share in the comments.
A version of this post was originally published on Spin Sucks.