[YS Learn] Teams and co-workers can work effectively during a pandemic. Here’s how

What are the factors that can ensure that your teammates do their best and are also happy? Dr Raj Raghunathan, Zale Centennial Professor of Business at the McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, Austin, explains what managers need to keep in mind.
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Despite weekly Zoom calls and scheduled meetings, working with and managing teams during a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic can be a daunting task. The simplest of tasks and communications can be misunderstood, leading to conflict. 

In times like these, communication is critical – it ensures efficacy, productivity, and happy employees. 

It is important for co-workers and managers to know that everyone has different ways of dealing with the pandemic and the crisis. It is important to give people the space and time to find their own way to an effective solution. 

Dr Raj Raghunathan, Zale Centennial Professor of Business at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas, Austin, believes there are many things managers can do for their employees in times of crisis. 

Raj’s work has appeared in scientific journals like The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, The Journal of Consumer Research, Organisational Behavior, and Human Decision Processes. His work has also been published in Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, The New York Times, and the Atlantic

In a masterclass with Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO, YourStory, Raj focuses on the factors that managers must keep in mind while dealing with team members. 

Provide reassurance 

These are times of uncertainty and a lot of people are looking for one thing: reassurance. Raj says if you and your company can afford it, assure people that they will not be fired. Tell them that there will be a salary cut, and they may not get their promised hikes, but reassure that they are not going to be laid off. 

Keep communication channels open

Give people all the possible information you can. When you don’t meet people, information flow drops drastically, and it is important to keep communication levels as high as possible. Let them know that they have the option to ask questions and reach out anytime they want. 

Engage in informal, non-verbal communication 

You may have several emails, meetings, and calls with the team, but it is also essential to plan non-agenda, face-to-face meetings over video calls. When you don’t meet people, a lot of information and understanding reduces. Raj says a link and non-verbal communication is established, through expressions, behaviour, and tonality, when you see someone. This has been broken now, as you don’t get to see the person. 

Give people more autonomy

Raj says giving people autonomy is important, as people have different ways of dealing with this situation and “the right way” isn’t clear yet. 

“The less judgmental we are in how others deal with things, the better off we will be. We do know one thing: times of great stress and upheaval lead to great innovations. One year from now, a lot of great things would have emerged from this pandemic,” Raj says. 

Raj adds that it is important to be optimistic and increase the “mavericks” on your team. “You may not like how people work, but opening up to different possibilities can open up different doors and options.”

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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