Ever notice how superheroes are afraid of absolutely nothing? That’s exactly how we want our leaders to be—whether it’s our parents or our management. When we see someone in authority who remains unruffled in the face of a perceived threat, it keeps us calm and able to function. That’s great if you’re being managed. But what if you’re the leader?
A big part of fear is lack of control. “The less predictable we feel something is, the more anxious we may become about it,” says Robert L. Leahy Ph.D., author of The Worry Cure. Working in a climate of ambiguity is the norm in the business world today. However, the recent election has introduced ill-will, suspicion, and volatility that is affecting many workplaces. Unfortunately this mentality works against the behaviors that create successful business results—collaboration, cooperation, idea-sharing, and trust.
What’s a leader to do?
First: Stay neutral. Your goal is to be the unbiased leader. If someone is behaving inappropriately, address it immediately. If you have to shut it down in a group setting, do so. But any further discussion with the individual should be done in private.
Second: Don’t assume anything. This means you’re going to have to overexplain things, at least in the short-term. Overexplain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Why you’ve chosen, who you’ve chosen. And clarify project assumptions that you’ve made so that everyone understands the situation.
Third: Don’t engage. Undoubtedly there has been political talk in the office for the last 2 years. Now that the election is over, don’t participate in political conversations. Walk away or answer in a non-committal way. These are no-win conversations that erode goodwill.
It will take time for workplaces to return to normal. Be patient and recognize that everyone is feeling some measure of fear due to the uncertainty of the unknown.