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Don't Believe in the Magic Portal

When I started my career, the prevailing thought was the door to the office building was a magical portal. Managers expected that whatever was impacting you in the world outside the door would disappear once you walked through the portal.

The portal wasn't magic and your worries and cares never left, you just learned to hide them. Those who hid them well were considered "professionals" and "warriors". We mistakenly rewarded those who hid the real world. Today, we need to reward those that are authentic, but also good professional citizens.

One reason that managers must build relationships with employees is to understand what impacts them. It may be something personal (illness in the family) or it may be something that impacts everyone (terrorist attacks). It isn't the manager's job to fix any of these things, but it is the manager's role to understand how it impacts the work.

I mention this today because of what happened yesterday in Washington, D.C. with the domestic terrorists. Some people will be upset and it will impact their work. Others will be able to work just fine. It may even cause tension between team members because of differing political views.

As a manager, you can't just ignore it and tell people to be professional. You have to acknowledge their feelings. Remember, acknowledgement does not mean agreement. It may impact project timelines, it may impact quality, and it may impact nothing. Your role is to understand what it impacts, show empathy and understanding, and make decisions to ensure things keep moving.

A managers also needs to realize that emotions will run high. Things may be said and done that need to be addressed, but also understood. Psychological safety gets tested in these situations. It isn't necessarily what is said or done, but how it is handled that is remembered.

How a manager acts during these critical times has a huge impact on the relationship and the engagement of the employee.

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