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Or put another way, can a team be successful if its members are bitter, unhappy or demotivated?

I asked myself this question after speaking with a friend who at the onset of the pandemic, had been suddenly laid-off from a senior role in a hospitality company that she’d been with for over 25 years. When we recently spoke, she was still working through some of the emotions of the grief process that we experience with this kind of trauma. She shared that her industry is now making a comeback and she noticed her former employer had posted many new jobs. She put aside her bitterness and feelings of betrayal and wrote up her cover letter to apply. She needed to work and she thought she’d have a good chance with this company as they were well aware of her immensely rich background of knowledge and vast experience. It was all created during her tenure with them after all!

As I listened to my friend muster the cautious hope that we muster when we click “submit” on a job application, I couldn’t help but notice she still seemed jaded and genuinely hurt for how the company had treated her and others. When I asked if she would actually want to go back there, she half-heartedly offered an unconvinced “yeah” that sounded more like a question than an answer, and a slight shrug of one shoulder.

So I began to wonder what companies are doing about morale as they rebuild their teams.
Are they in full-on cheerleader mode? We’re back! Yay Team!? Pandemic? What pandemic?!
We know nothing good comes from ignoring or sweeping under the carpet any of the trauma, resentment or the socio-psychological effects of a year of isolation, fear, uncertainty and unemployment. Those sour grapes will ferment into some very pungent vinegar!

So here are some ideas for leaders as you re-hire or re-build your team to help you temper the bitterness and cultivate with care your new squad to become a beautiful new blend that will age well over time.

  1. Ensure your HR people are aware that the H in HR stands for HUMAN! Far too often the first line of contact with an HR office is with an associate who hasn’t yet developed the understanding of the value of empathy, particularly in his or her line of work. While they may be on a time crunch to sort through those 200 applicants and put them into YES-NO-MAYBE piles within the hour, we can still show respect and common courtesy to applicants, recognizing that they’ve likely put a lot of effort into their applications and acknowledging that they may have a lot riding on this opportunity. Spend a bit of time to create a sincere, kind and human-sounding reply to send to all applicants thanking them for their interest and wishing them well as you let them know they have not been short-listed. Sure, they’ll be disappointed but at least you give them closure for the process in a respectful way. Besides practicing professional behaviour, research in Forbes informs us that 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention.
  2. Devote time in your initial onboarding and training to talk about the “re-entry”. Take the temperature and see how people are managing with getting back to work. Acknowledge that it may take longer for some than others to get back into the groove – personality style, extraversion/introversion traits can contribute to how quickly some jump back in while others may need more time and compassion. You can download this free template and tailor it to create your organization’s own customized plan to ensure you’re hitting all the important points for onboarding into your unique organization. The Human Capital Institute published research indicating that a bad onboarding experience doubled the chances that an employee will look for new opportunities, but that great employee onboarding can improve employee retention by a whopping 82%!
  3. Create team building opportunities to build team cohesion, establish trust and build an engaged and engaging culture. Be sure to select team building activities that are appropriate for your group, considering personality styles, demographics and other distinguishing characteristics of your specific team composition. Not sure what would appeal to your squad? Ask them!

Winemakers know that fine wine is at once the serendipitous and purposeful result of the care and attention they pay to so many factors. Similarly, it makes solid business sense to cultivate your team with as much care and passion as you would cultivate your vineyard!

Book a call today to talk about ideas to build cohesion as you get your team up and running!