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4 things all managers should avoid doing during the coronavirus pandemic

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Yessi Bello Perez
Story by
Yessi Bello Perez

Senior Writer, Growth QuartersYessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters. Yessi leads the writing efforts at TNW’s Growth Quarters.

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There’s nothing like a crisis — such as the coronavirus pandemic — to highlight managers’ trust issues.

The coronavirus pandemic is disrupting day-to-day operations, and as working from home becomes more ubiquitous, some entrepreneurs are struggling to deal with their employees being out of sight.

If you are a founder, CEO, or business leader, here are a few things you should avoid if you want to ensure your workforce remains motivated both in the short and long term.

Don’t resist remote working

The tech industry is well placed to allow employees to work from home, and if this is a viable option, founders and entrepreneurs shouldn’t resist it. 

I spoke with various employees working across the technology industry who explained how their managers’ actions were impacting their lives and performance.

“Getting our CEO to agree to a working from home policy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic was incredibly painful. My colleagues and I were so angry, we felt like management wasn’t prioritizing our health and that of our loved ones,” a source tells me.

“I obviously can’t afford to lose my job, but it did make me feel like quitting,” they add.

[Read: 7 tips for my fellow humans stuck working from home]

We’re living in unprecedented times but it’s crucial that managers and leaders realize that how they act now will have a long-standing impact on how employees think about them in the future. 

As a founder or CEO, you are uniquely placed to lead by example and put your influence to good use. Do so and your employees will become more loyal!

Don’t install surveillance systems

Due to the current circumstances, some employees are waking up to the fact that their managers still struggle with the notion of trust. And let me tell you: Now is not the time to increase workplace surveillance.  

Installing tracking software on work laptops — to monitor how long an employee spends using a specific program — is a common gripe, yet one not too unfamiliar for sales or customer-focused professionals working in, and outside, the tech industry.

“You spend more time worrying about your productivity being tracked as opposed to being productive,” someone who was recently sent home from work due to the coronavirus pandemic tells me. 

[Read: No clue how to handle coronavirus as a startup founder? Here’s what we’re doing]

Employers justify this by arguing they need to know how much time workers are spending on billable activity, and that while this will be monitored, the software doesn’t take any screenshots of their screens.

“It’s de-motivating and down right offensive. Most of us are responsible adults, we know what needs to be done and when. In fact, most sales people are on commission so it’s in their interest to get the job done,” the source adds. 

It’s possible that managers think these measures are harmless, but they signal a lack of trust, and leaders are failing to think about how this can impact their morale in the short and long term.

Don’t be overbearing

While asking for status updates or progress reports is totally justifiable, constantly checking up on your staff is not only irritating, but incredibly demotivating. 

“My employer has scheduled a daily company-wide conference call for no other apparent reason than to check on whether people are online when they claim to be,” someone else tells working in recruitment tech tells me.

“It’s incredibly frustrating because the call usually lasts over an hour, nothing of substance is discussed, and it’s just a time-wasting exercise,” they add.

[Read: Lessons learned from my company’s crisis]

Indeed, these are challenging times and business uncertainty can be crippling, but don’t lose sight of the fact you hired people for a reason: You trusted their ability to do their job. So, let them!

If you have any concerns, discuss them with the individual employee or team, but don’t let your lack of trust affect the whole company. 

Don’t alienate your workforce

The best kind of leaders can see past the boardroom, identify their employees’ concerns, and level with them.

While you may be overwhelmed about the company‘s future, it’s likely your staff is feeling this too.

Reach out to your employees, be kind, be transparent, and be balanced.

[Read: Here’s what tech founders had to say about their leadership mistakes]

There’s definitely going to be a sense of urgency around certain tasks, but if you offer flexibility, you can probably expect the same in return.

Make your employees feel valued and part of something bigger than themselves: A business that’s navigating murky waters but is working to come out better and wiser at the other end.

Times are tough, but the ball really is in your court.

Published March 24, 2020 — 09:00 UTC

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