This article was based on episode 117 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get 50% off coaching with Peter Gourri when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
In our fifth month of COVID-restricted remote work, managers and teams still shoulder the burden of additional workloads, rising tensions, and mounting uncertainty. Peter Gourri, a business/executive coach who works with high growth start-ups, multinational Fortune 500 corporations, and individual executives, witnesses the high level of overwhelm across the board. To offset the extraordinary pressures everyone feels, Peter offers us guidance for how to ease interpersonal office tensions, do effective self care, and remain proactive about building our skills during an unstable, uncertain time.
GET PERSPECTIVE WHEN TENSION WITH COWORKERS BUILDS
It’s so easy to take offense and misinterpret what our colleagues say, particularly when communication occurs over email or chat, as is now so often the case. It’s not only the lack of verbal intonation that can cause problems. Our moods color so much of how we look at our coworkers’ actions; when we are feeling happy, we tend to be more forgiving and generous in our interpretation. When we’re stressed out, we carry that tension into the next interaction, subconsciously affecting our perception.
Peter recommends a simple method for slowing down and separating the facts from our interpretation of them, with the BuFCA method, in order to repair colleague conflicts.
BUFCA Method For Interpersonal Conflict
Breakdown: Ask yourself, ‘what’s going on that’s causing the upset?’
Facts: Look at the facts as if you were a judge. Consider them from a more elevated, objective position. What can you say definitively happened versus your interpretation or judgement of the situation?
Commitment: What are the values you are committed to maintaining with regards to the situation?
Action: What will you do to rectify or address the situation?
To avoid worsening the situation, it’s important to pause before responding after an upsetting email or interaction. Try making a cup of tea or going for a walk to clear your head. Upon returning with fresh eyes, you may even realize that the email or comment differed from your original perception. Taking that moment to pause and question, “Am I bringing the right lens to this interaction? Am I letting previous emotions cloud my judgment?” will help you realign and reassess.
SELF-CARE PRACTICES TO DEAL WITH JUGGLING FAMILY AND SPACE DURING COVID-19
As much as we love our family, roommates, and/or significant others, spending countless hours with them in small spaces while trying to also get our own work done spawns endless frustration. As we deal with the juggling and claustrophobia, Peter recommends essential self-care practices to ensure you are giving yourself the emotional, physical, and psychological space you need to maintain equilibrium.
Self-Care COVID Tips
Structure Food Times. Book time in your daily schedule to take lunch and dinner breaks. Make sure to block off food preparation time, in addition to eating time, to both create healthy meals as well as give your mind a pause from work.
Move Your Body. Mark off time every day to go for a walk and move around.
Suggest Phone Calls Instead of Zoom. Staring at a screen can be so draining. People are often happy to accommodate a request to use the phone or audio only instead of video. Alternatively, proactively plan for “walking conversations” for meetings so everyone can get some fresh air and body movement time.
Take Time Off. Many people aren’t taking vacations because they feel they don’t have anywhere to go during COVID-19. If you don’t want to take a full vacation, it’s still important to take a day off here or there - or even half a day - to give yourself time to refresh and renew.
Peter reminds managers to make sure to create an environment where people feel safe taking a break. Managers must role model good self-care and encourage others to do the same. It’s not uncommon for people to believe that the benefits of flexibility and time for self care are reserved for senior employees. To combat this false narrative, check in on your team to make sure they are taking the time off they need in order to thrive.
While we may neglect these important rituals and structure during ordinary times, the need for self-care is more critical now than ever. These simple practices help us to cope with the additional weight of restricted public activity, limited socialization, and non-stop housemates.
REMAIN PROACTIVE DURING UNCERTAINTY
In addition to the stress of living and working in this “new normal”, we are also struggling with the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end or what will happen next, Will there be new or longer lockdowns? What will it be like when we go back to the office? What’s the latest research coming out about COVID-19 - how it spreads, how to protect against it, a possible vaccine. Plus, there is the simmering political situation in the US. In order to manage the tensions and stressors of uncertainty, Peter insists on the importance of maintaining a positive future image. Spend time doing activities that will leave you with extra positive energy and feeling empowered for whatever the future brings. For example:
Write a letter to yourself. Imagine you’ve accomplished something in the future or become the person you envision. Write a letter to your current self as if you’ve reached that goal.
Build Projects For Yourself. Name your objective and how you will measure success. Then identify what skill sets and resources you have or need. Create a plan and start making progress toward that goal.
Invest in your own professional development. If you’ve been laid off, furloughed or are just looking to become a more valuable and critical employee, take online courses that will help you step closer to that vision of who you want to be.
Take up a new hobby. Always wanted to play guitar? Now’s the perfect time to learn to code, cook, go hiking, or finish that quilt that’s been sitting in your closet. .
As Peter remarks, a good leader isn't afraid to look at the plans they have and revise them according to the circumstances. As we all shift gears, navigating the additional uncertainties, responsibilities, and expectations during COVID-19, it's helpful to remember all the ways we can take care of ourselves and our team members. It’s not easy to thrive under pressure. Whether it’s through slowing down and reassessing our emotional responses to workplace tensions, practicing self-care, or building our skills for the unknown future, we can combat the pervasive feeling of overwhelm by taking control of our lives.
KEEP UP WITH PETER
Get 50% off coaching with Peter when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 117 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.