10 Ways Managers Can Lead With Empathy Through Tough Times

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April 23, 2024 at 8:59AM UTC

As we continue to navigate the profound impact of COVID-19, employees across all industries are juggling personal demands while trying to keep up with work. During these uncertain times, managers play a significant role in looking out for their team, understanding unique personal circumstances and creating an open and supportive environment.

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We sat down with members of the Goldman Sachs Learning and Engagement team in Human Capital Management to round up a list of tips for managers to keep in mind during these challenging times. These tips were shared with Goldman Sachs managers throughout the firm as part of the ongoing advice and support of their leadership development — and they’re worth sharing more broadly.

1. Set the tone; act as though all eyes are on you (because they are).

As a leader you set the tone for your entire team. People will look to your actions as a model for their own. It’s important to be a role model with positive energy. Steer clear of cynical comments, and try to frame challenges as growth opportunities. 

2. Acknowledge that this is a challenging time and display empathy.

We are living through incredibly challenging times and undoubtedly this causes worry, uncertainty and competing priorities. As a manager, empathy is key during times of crisis. Check in, listen with care and curiosity, and work with your team members to find solutions on how to best manage work and life priorities. 

3. Communicate more than usual.

Cascade relevant information in real-time. Use team and one-on-one meetings as forums to encourage your team to raise concerns and ask questions. Even if you don’t have all the answers, be transparent with your team and demonstrate that you are in this together.  

4. Connect with your team more regularly.

During this period of “physical distancing,” feelings of isolation may grow. Make an effort to informally check-in with your team and leverage digital platforms to stay connected virtually. 

5. Emphasize the importance of resilience.

Speak openly to your team about maintaining and strengthening resilience. Invite team members to create boundaries for themselves and focus on their mental and physical well-being – whether that be making time for exercise, meditation or other activities.

6. Help your team re-prioritize and operate with a long-term view.

Provide guidance on what priorities should be, recognizing it may be unrealistic to be on top of everything. Communicate the importance of individual roles to a larger purpose – team, firm, community. Without dismissing any present concerns, talk to your people about any personal experiences related to past dynamic cycles, what helped you and the broader organization navigate through the disruption, and how you can apply those tactics in the current environment.

7. Listen.

Make time to listen and understand since it goes a long way. Active listening is a powerful tool in harnessing emotion in a positive way. Explore your team’s challenges and what is within your control to address.

8. Encourage flexibility and actively support it.

Ask each team member what works for them; remember each of your team members will have a different way of structuring the way they work in light of personal circumstances. Having an open conversation and collectively finding a solution will allow them to operate at the best of their ability.

9. Show gratitude.

Studies show that demonstrating gratitude increases one’s overall sense of wellbeing and ability to manage stress. In challenging times, people are more stressed and face increased pressure; so remind yourself and your team to say ‘thank you’ to each other – everyone is doing their best. 

10. Remind team to access available resources.

Many companies, like Goldman Sachs, have many resources available to support their people during challenging times, including paid leave programs, resilience platforms, digital learning and counseling services. It is important to make sure they are aware of these resources and feel comfortable using them.


A version of this article was originally published by Goldman Sachs. Fairygodboss is proud to partner with Goldman Sachs. Find a job there today!

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