Last week I met with a group of supervisors who are dealing with the fallout of a sexual harassment claim in their midst. Although most of them are not directly involved with it, all of them are struggling with their teams. Rumors, fears and distractions are front and center, and projects and deadlines loom in the fog of it all.
They want to feel better. They want a renewed sense of commitment and positivity among their hires.
Sleepless nights, exhausting days and a loss of control are taking a toll in small and big ways.
Employee reactions are all over the map. A lack of concentration, escalating irritability, placing blame, making mistakes, isolation, absenteeism and hanging onto anger and sadness are common.
Discussing concerns was an important step to understanding and to planning next steps, in a safe and confidential forum. These takeaways are worth sharing:
- You may never know all of the facts or have the authority to share them.
- It is not your job to diagnose or to take responsibility for everyone’s reactions.
- It is hard to watch people suffer.
- Each person reacts differently, for reasons known and unknown.
- Knowing what help you need, e.g. direction, leadership, resources, is a sign of taking responsibility and solving problems.
- Self-care is a source of energy and a good way to model healthy habits.
- Knowing your triggers can help to prevent conflict and self-defeating practices.
- Keeping an open mind and actively listening allow others to feel heard and validated.
- Getting counseling and incorporating wellness activities can soothe and improve morale.
Be honest (in light of what you can legally divulge). Be kind to yourself, first and foremost. Use gentle humor to dissipate fears, to build bridges and to instill a spirit of optimism and hope, at work and at home.
(Note: Steps are being taken to evaluate workplace conditions, structures and practices that led to this specific event.)