- Many Americans report experiencing happiness despite COVID-19 crisis
- However, stress and worry are not far behind
- Leaders, keep positivity high with compassionate coaching and communication
A March 24-29 Gallup Panel survey found that when Americans were asked which of a range of emotions they experienced "during a lot of the day yesterday," happiness had the highest positive response (67%), beating out stress (60%) and worry (58%).
|Gallup Panel, March 24-29, 2020
Leaders may be surprised -- and relieved -- because this reaction sure didn't seem likely in mid-March, when companies were frantically reorganizing their staff and reconceiving customer service as the threat of a deadly pandemic grew and the stock market tanked.
They also may be wondering how to keep happiness at the top of the list for their employees. The COVID-19 outbreak is just getting worse, the market isn't much better, and over 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Attitudes may change for the worse -- and if they do, employees may struggle to perform.
Gallup analytics offers some advice -- some of it wildly counterintuitive, all of it backed by science -- to keep your people positive, thriving and succeeding in these difficult times.
Remind your managers that this is no time to act like a boss.
Gallup research shows that the will of the workforce has been trending for some time toward meaningful work, ongoing communication, clear work expectations, and opportunities to learn and grow. It's an individualized, human-first approach -- and your managers may feel like it's all wrong for a crisis situation. Just the opposite is true.
Employees need empathy and compassion when they feel most vulnerable, or they'll disengage from the work and recoil from their managers. Command-and-control management is likelier to depress performance than get the job done. Coaching with compassion, communication and individualization is far, far more effective than bossing, and your managers need to hear that from you.
Be crystal clear.
Among other things, COVID-19 containment brought leaders a whole new definition of VUCA -- volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, a term the U.S. Army War College introduced. You'll have to hire an excavator to find the baseline of VUCA these days. And people downstream of you have it harder: What they know, they know through you and at a significant time lag.
Clarity helps your people see what you see: a path forward, a better future and a way to get there together.
So when you announce a strategy, policy, decision or request, be extremely clear. Leave nothing to interpretation. Overcommunicate. The four needs of followers, as Gallup found in a study of 10,000 of them, are trust, compassion, stability and hope. VUCA situations are a threat to all four. But clarity helps your people see what you see: a path forward, a better future and a way to get there together.
Don't wear a suit in a videoconference from home.
Yes, you were just told that followers need stability badly. And formal attire is synonymous with the authority and gravity of leadership. But to be utterly blunt, wearing a suit at home signals that your new normal is not the same as your employees' -- and right now, employees need to feel like "we're all in it together."
Coaching with compassion, communication and individualization is far, far more effective than bossing, and your managers need to hear that from you.
Gallup's massive database covers nearly every major crisis since the Great Depression, and our analysis shows a distinct rally effect in times of trouble. You'll activate that rally effect by appearing to be with, not different from, your people. Remember, in a VUCA world, employees' need for reassurance is extremely intense and they're more sensitive to your signals than before.
And let your dog in the frame. It alleviates the concerns of employees who are hyper-alert to their own household noises, and it shows a humanized side of you that people love.
Overall, leaders are taking the right steps during uncertainty.
Incidentally, Americans feel just as or more connected than they did before the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the March 24-29 Gallup Panel survey. That's a positive sign, just as much as the "happiness" rate.
That suggests something important: What leaders are doing is working. Americans are worried and stressed -- but despite the frantic reorgs and fear, their emotional weather is much sunnier than we might have expected.
And that's good news for leaders. Emotions like anger and sadness are obstacles to performance, and positivity and connectedness sustain performance. Happiness has an effect on the bottom line.
Keep it up. Push it up -- give your people every reason to stay positive. We don't know what the future will bring, but we do know companies do better when people do well.