At times of crisis, it can fall upon our shoulders to bring bad news to our family, friends and colleagues. Today, the death toll and unemployment numbers due to COVID-19 serve as warnings that many of our lives will be altered in ways we didn't choose.
It could be your income from residuals is down, and you have to tell your family you have to postpone purchasing that cabin on a lake you'd been eyeing for summertime getaways. It could be you'll have to lay off some of your staff, like many employers have had to do. Or maybe you'll have to tell your daughter that her favorite aunt passed away due to COVID-19.
It is never easy to have these kinds of conversations. However, there are ways to make them less traumatic than they could be.
When it comes to business decisions, first assess the situation thoroughly and examine all viable options to make sure your plans are necessary and likely to lead to the most positive outcome. It's easy in uncertain times to have a knee-jerk reaction that might seem good in the moment, but in the end turns out not to have been the best road to take. So, consider carefully what you're going to do.
Next think about the people involved and what they've each contributed to your enterprise over time. Brainstorm about ways you can reinvent and reorganize to keep people working if at all possible. If you can't avoid letting people go or otherwise changing their work life in ways they might not like, think of how you can soften the blow. Keep in mind the long view of your life and how you'll feel years from now about the decisions you make today—and err on the side of generosity. At minimum, thoroughly research appropriate resources available to help affected individuals. Don't just offer to provide a positive reference.
When sharing difficult news, be sure to appreciate the person before you share the bad news. Remember this is a colleague of worth who deserves respect and recognition for a job well done. Share your plans, let the person know what you have to offer. And don't solicit or expect their understanding. Don't make it about you. Put the focus on them and giving them as much support as you can in the moment.
Families grieve in their own ways. But in the aftermath of a loved one's passing, especially unexpectedly and prematurely—or in the aftermath of a huge financial reversal—the adults often have so much on their minds and so many phone calls to make and arrangements to tend to that paying attention to children takes a back seat. Remember that little people need to know their parents and guardians are there to help them with their feelings. Quiet moments spent with them no matter how busy you are can make a huge difference in how the loss affects them.
If we let compassion guide us in all of our decisions now, we will likely look back in time and feel we've done our best by those whose lives have intersected with ours professionally and personally.
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