I have heard some people say that they don’t believe in Covid and they will never utter the words “pandemic” and “unprecedented” ever again. I’ve also heard some say, “it is what it is” and we just have to adapt. Then there are those of us who steep ourselves in wellness culture as we download meditation apps or try our hand at vegan brownies. It’s how we diligently aim for positivity in the face of uncertainty and political unrest as we suddenly find ourselves navigating a strange spectrum of sheltering ourselves from maelstrom media on one end and voraciously consuming information on the other.
Our lives have been forever changed by this global event, and as we pause to take stock of a year that has left most of us at a loss for words, we cannot help our human tendency to mine for meaning in order to somehow justify the insurmountable anxiety-inducing pressure of adapting to a “new normal.” Our justifications affirm that we can come away from this challenge changed – hopefully for the better.
But, the search for meaning is exhausting, and we are losing our patience.
For those of us who are fortunate enough to continue to be employed, we still need to be “on.”
But, what does that mean for how you show up at work?
Company culture does not exist in a vacuum devoid of environmental or global influence. So how do we stay positive while we search for meaning and create order?
The answer is simple – we don’t.
Merging companies after an acquisition is challenging enough without the added pressure of doing so in the midst of a pandemic, but when I reflect on how our organization has fared over this past year of doing exactly that, I’m able to derive important insight and wisdom.
One major learning that has come from this experience is that expecting positivity all of the time will actually have the exact opposite effect on company culture. As leaders we need to be encouraging our teams to be brave - bravery in the face of sadness, loss, stress and fear, so that when the moments of darkness come, we can take comfort in knowing that this too shall pass and that we will weather the storm together.
We also need to remember the value of validation. We all crave it at some level, especially when we are gripped by all the emotions that are the antithesis to positivity. Such validation is only possible when we listen from a place of trying to understand rather than to solve, and when we do that, we walk the journey together. It doesn’t mean it will be easier, but at the very least there is comfort in knowing that it’s okay to not feel okay all the time.
Ultimately, culture in the time of Covid is no different than culture during any other time. Our organizational cultures are shaped by how we respond to the internal and external influences that impact all of us. Favouring bravery over positivity encourages a psychologically safe environment that fosters leaders and heroes.