What If It's Heartache That's Eating Away At Today's Workforce?

business Jul 27, 2022

By Amilya Antonetti

Just because you do not want it to be true does not make it any less true. I get it; business owners and team leaders are burnt out on pivot planning. As CEOs scramble to tap into capital needs, everyone on the team is digging deep into the need for speed and efficiency demands. But have you noticed that almost every business you know is hiring? Everywhere you look, from grabbing your morning coffee to the nearly four-month waiting list for therapy and self-help services, starts to give you a clue. If you have not picked up on the people shortage and the heaviness of how people are feeling, you might be living under a rock. 

People have lived in one of the most uncertain and scary times for more than two years. Everyone has lost someone they knew or loved. This means most are in some stage of the grieving and healing process. Now mix in pressures from remote working, changes to children's schooling, and health concerns that just linger. The world of people had to reestablish their relationship with uncertainty because that's all they got.  I have yet to speak to someone who doesn't have any type of financial or business concern, and no matter who I speak with, the common theme always goes back to the fact that they can not believe the impacts on their life. My life was so different just a moment ago. 

This article is not about doom and gloom as I am a “people problem” expert, and at the end of the day, I believe in the power of people. However, how you approach any “people problem” dramatically impacts the outcome. The call back to resume your position and carry on mate that many companies are taking will fail miserably.  

Why? Well, let's face it before COVID hit, companies were struggling to attract and engage talent. This has been a running top 5 problem for businesses for almost a decade. Do you think COVID made businesses' “people problem” any better?  Heck no! Companies promoted whatever people they had into roles they did not have the “people skills” to execute. Don’t believe me, step onto a plane to go anywhere, check into a hotel, and order food. You will hit “people problems” every step of the way. Need something fixed or repaired, good luck, as patience better be one of your core strengths. 

With almost every company hiring, the only qualification seems to be having a pulse. People are getting thrown into positions, and everyone from the CEO down is just hoping a few figure it out. As my partner, Patricia Wooster commented, “On paper, it may look good. The company gets a new hire and an employee gets the title they want. It doesn’t take long for the cracks to show when someone’s position is not aligned with their genius.”

On 95% of the walk-throughs we do with CEOs and team leaders when I stop and ask their people, “do you know what the expectations are for you today?” The answer, deer in headlight response,  “do a good job” or “Sell something”  With this handy piece of information, I ask, “Do you know what a good job means” and “why does what you do matters to everyone on your team?  Answer, a slow nod of the head “no.” 

But this would be easy if it was just a tactical issue that a strongly facilitated mastermind could solve. You can google tactical planning resources. But have you ever stopped and asked yourself, is that what is happening? 

As a CEO and behaviorist, I’ve built a strong reputation with “what you think is happening is never what is happening.” 

Do you think CEOs and leaders suddenly forgot how to build their businesses? No. We continue to try and solve the wrong problem and yet somehow expect, magically, that our people will figure it out. 

We have had growing “people problems” for a long time, and many leaders have just hoped these problems would disappear. Others have said they hope to retire or be bought out before they need to deal with their “people problems.” 

Guess what? Many who thought they were semi-retired before COVID are back in the game. People who were complacent or unhappy before COVID have gone MIA or are wreaking havoc within our organizations.  

The question becomes, what are we going to do about it? Well, let's start with what we know about people. What we know is that Change of any kind is scary. Living in uncertainty is nerve-wracking, and not knowing where we belong and why is lonely. We have a population of people in pain. It's unintended pain, but it's a pain just the same. We know that people from our customers, consumers, and employees have spoken loudly that they want to be associated with companies making a positive difference. Companies can practice inclusivity and sustainability. 

Can you put on your people hat for a second and make the connection?  What do you do when you are in pain? You comfort yourself with things you believe will make you feel better.  People in pain need to be seen, heard, and recognized. The person who becomes the witness of their pain opens up trust. Leaders and companies who become not just a witness to acknowledge and speak about the elephant in the room and become problem solvers gain loyalty beyond what they could have imagined. Think about the person there for you at your most uncertain and scary moment. How do you feel about them? Can you imagine if your people felt that way about you? 

As a behaviorist and people expert, my passion is to help you see what is really going on – to be you and the company's mirror. The reflection of what is at the root of your people while bringing in the “people tools” to begin healing the pain and uniting the teams with the awareness that they matter, what they do matters, and if we all started behaving like we all matter, wouldn't our lives feel tremendously different. 

My final thought is don't serve tactical advice to someone trying to heal from the real pain that their life is nowhere near what they thought it would be. Start with some empathy, letting them know they are in very good company and the healthy communication skills we can, and we will figure this out TOGETHER. 

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