It is 3:00 am. Here we go again.

“woof, woof, WOOOFFF!”

“Phil be quiet, it’s the air conditioner!”

Phil is my 9-month-old Bernadoodle puppy. And lately Phil has been waking up in the middle of the night. And barking. And barking. It can be the AC cycling on, the dishwasher cycling off, a tree branch moving or one of the kids shifting in their beds, random noises are causing him to react.

We all react when we are startled or disrupted. And most of us have been majorly disrupted the last few months. Phil the puppy must think his incessant barking at a trashcan lid blowing off is an appropriate reaction. But how do we, in a professional setting determine appropriate reactions to our disruptions?

The COVID19 pandemic has caused many of our reactions to be more emotional. We are afraid, confused, and angry. Many of us are grieving. We are grieving for people we have lost. We are grieving for people and family we can’t see. We are grieving a lack of normalcy. While we try to be “professional” in our reactions at work, this is also a time to be human with our reactions. Understanding of those reactions.

If you have a team member having a particularly emotional reaction to a situation, be gentle. We don’t know what threats they have faced to create their larger reaction. Ask the team member to remove themselves from the situation. And be gentle in your approach. Put on your empathy cape. “How can I help?” “What can we do for you?” or “Do you need ten minutes to yourself?” Can all go a long way to build team members up.

Reactions are hard to hide when we are emotionally charged. Help your teams understand we are human and have a space or policy in place for team members to regroup and regain some composure. I recently spoke to a director in a long-term care facility who set aside a space in an activity room just for team members to take a moment. Caregivers are taxed and emotions from residents and families can all create situations that cause reactions to be big.

A few tips on to help your team manage reactions:

  1. Acknowledge that we are all having reactions to this disruption
  2. Understand that not all reactions are the same
  3. Put a plan in place for your team members to gather support when big reactions happen (more on this in a resource later this week!)

We can not go through our days without reacting. But building a culture where we understand each other, support each other and find solutions together will help mitigate those huge barking moments in the middle of our days.

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