How Can You Explain the New, Foul Mood That Has Engulfed Our Workplace?
Q: I am one of the lucky workers whose terms of employment have not been affected in any way by the current situation. We resumed work recently, but the work environment is not as vibrant as it was. The environment is dull, supervisors are snappy and everyone seems to mind their business. It is like everyone has a new bad attitude. I feel so uncomfortable and wonder what is happening, and how long it will last.
It is very easy to assume that things will get back to how they were before the pandemic, but I am afraid it will be a while before normalcy returns. We have all encountered challenges that have shaken us and although we have picked many lessons, we will never look at life or our jobs the same way.
While resuming work in a safe environment may seem easy, the real task is to help everyone to be present and heal from the mental and emotional stress they have been through. This must be handled tactfully. While it is great news that your salary and benefits are still intact, you must remember that you are among colleagues who nearly lost their jobs.
It is normal to wonder for how long you will remain employed. Many of your former colleagues are probably surrounded by friends and family members whose livelihoods have been directly impacted, and this creates some fear which if not addressed, may lead to stress.
There is a lot of numbness associated with other factors like dealing with loved ones who may have been infected, or losing a friend or colleague and not having the opportunity to pay last respects, or even thinking of a friend who needs you desperately but you are unable to offer help. We have all been through some stuff lately, and getting back to a safe office is just scratching the surface.
The burden is not just on your employer. You and your colleagues should look for ways to help each other heal and overcome these fears.
Managers must apply more empathy in their style of leadership, must enhance their self-awareness, listen more keenly, and be positive in their outlook.
I appreciate that they too have their challenges, but they must be better equipped to help others.
Your colleagues may also be worried that returning to work will expose them to higher risks of infection and thus choose to keep to themselves as much as possible. Whatever is going on, since you have made an important observation, share it with someone who seems to have a positive outlook and together figure out how to bring back some vibrancy in the office.