Fostering Human Workplaces in Times of Uncertainty and Ambiguity

We regularly talk about how our VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world brings a new reality of living and working in an environment where disruption is the new norm. With all that is happening globally with COVID-19, we are experiencing our VUCA world in full force!

Uncertain and unsettling times like these require us to leverage our ability to lead and navigate adaptive change.

This means we have to think creatively and promote our resourcefulness rather than relying on “tried and true” solutions. It is also critically important that we are basing our decisions on sound science – which many times is unfolding by the hour.

Many workplaces have been thrust into the unknowns of adaptive challenges: suddenly needing to accommodate remote working, limiting meetings and gatherings, reducing and closing operations, and more.

Work team huddle.Such challenges can lead to anxiety and unintentional dehumanization of our workplaces. Yet they can also be an opportunity to build connection and resiliency. Here are some key considerations to boost humanity in your workplace:

  1. Anchor on your purpose and core values. Although what we do and how we go about our work may change during this global pandemic, anchoring your decisions and communications on your company purpose and core values can help provide consistency and a bit of calm in the midst of this VUCA storm.
  2. Words matter! Be diligent about your language. The words we use matter profoundly and have the ability to humanize or dehumanize quickly. I’ve heard many organizations, although well-intended, use language like, “non-essential staff.” The unspoken message that some employees are expendable can leave them feeling discouraged and devalued. We must be thoughtful about the words we use – especially during high anxiety times like these.
  3. Call yourself and others to greatness. It’s even more critical for us to be conscious about how we help people feel connected, purposeful, and show up as leaders. Ask people to practice pausing, be curious and focus on what is known and what we all can do to be helpful and add value today. Practice patience and empathy, as our communities are struggling right now.
  4. Foster Connection & Community. Whether it’s videochat, phone, email, or snail mail, make a conscious effort to reach out especially to colleagues and friends who have the additional burden of being put on unpaid leave or are struggling to work from home while their children are home.

Now, More Than Ever, We Need Human Workplaces

As a small business, Salveo Partners has certainly felt the force of what is happening. Anchoring on our purpose and core values is helping us navigate how we want to show up, adjust and continue to add value in the world. And leaning into the discomfort and supporting our community is key.

We continue to see countless examples of organizations that are evolving into stronger, better versions of themselves by using their purpose and values as a guide to help them pivot their products and services. Hopefully this will be one positive lesson from this pandemic – when we are clear about WHY we do what we do and have clear behavioral guideposts showing us how we need to act, it can provide calm in the midst of VUCA storms and give us greater ability to adapt.

If you have not yet done the work to clarify your purpose, operationalize your values into tangible behavioral filters, and align your people so they know how they fit into the bigger picture, now is the time to invest in this important foundational work. It’s hard for people to lean into change and adapt without something to guide them and provide hope and direction.

Stay HUMAN. Stay connected. Stay safe. Show Up as a Leader.

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