It’s become the latest inescapable news story. Within a matter of days, the word every colleague and companion is discussing is no longer ‘Covid’, but Ukraine.

How does a business leader manage the personal and political impact of such an evolving story, in the context of the daily workplace?

MAD-HR takes a deeper look.

When HR leaders talk about ‘water cooler moments’, and the discussions which unite and divide a workforce, do you conclude that such topics of conversation are ultimately about the latest TV drama or the tumultuous events in an employee’s love life?

If that’s your perception, then it’s time to rethink the collective thinking of your workforce.
Good leaders understand what makes staff tick, what motivates them, what challenges them, but also what stirs them.

Such issues aren’t JUST work-related.

In fact, foolish is the employer or manager who believes that their trusty employee will always be able to show unshakeable resilience in the face of external pressures, concerns and nagging issues within the subconscious.

Our personal worlds inevitably affect how we feel when we’re carrying out our working duties.

But that’s far beyond the concerns of how healthy our bank balance is, how moody our children are, or how satisfied our spouse, neighbour or best friend is.

The truth is, we are all creatures whose worlds vibrate in response to greater issues in the universe.

And so, when national and global matters – like our current deeply concerning picture in Ukraine – are seen by us on a daily basis, thanks to relentless media feeds, then of course we have and portray a reaction (to greater or lesser extent).

As a leader, we would always recommend the acid-test of asking yourself ahead of every new day ‘is this issue in the conscience of most people right here, right now?’.

Just as we knew only too well that the C word (Covid, in case you needed reminding) was first and foremost in everyone’s brains for so many months of the last two years, it’s absolutely clear that the Ukraine and Russia conflict has been talked about in every living room, at every dining table, and among siblings, soccer-mates, spouses and shopkeepers alike.

How you manage this landscape is critical. Your reaction, behaviours, communication and empathy will be observed by all.

Indeed, for some, your actions will be scrutinised particularly closely, especially if it transpires that certain members of your team have close familial associations in those countries, or have military serving loved ones who stand a very good chance of becoming embroiled in the forthcoming activity.

As a priority, begin with acknowledgement.

It’s happening.

The world is watching.

The nation’s families and workplaces are talking about little else.

Be the boss or leader who acknowledges that this major activity is happening on the global stage, and who appreciates many people are affected – personally, or distantly, with some kind of emotional reverberation or opinionated stance.

Now consider the scope for divisive commentary at the heart of your workplace.

Staff may have deeply conflicting views about such a major story (much as so many did over Brexit, Covid restrictions, our current PM…and much more besides).

It’s your role to ensure that the major news drama doesn’t become a source of division and tension in your workplace – or lead to targeted hostility.

With this in mind, be sure to remind staff of policies around social media use.

It’s exactly at this kind of time in a universally impacting news schedule, that individuals can feel fired up enough to write, share or respond to comments, which others may well find insulting or worse.

Staff should be respectfully reminded of what is considered acceptable content to share (particularly if they have access to your company’s social channels), what consequences their content or sharing activity could lead to, and how the business’s reputation could be damaged irretrievably by mishandled communication.

Of course, a time like this is also an opportunity to really honestly assess how you support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Are you well resourced for staff to be able to access a wellbeing champion or a mental health first aider, or an EAP (employee assistance programme), should an individual be feeling particularly pained or concerned by something of this nature?

Remind your staff and their direct team leaders of what can be accessed and how this is done.

At MAD-HR, we often talk about the cumulative impact and the human cost which gathers over time.

This too, is an issue to reflect on while we navigate the world’s rightful intrigue in the conflict playing out in the east.

After all, the same staff in your team have, over the last two years, repeatedly and resiliently been asked to change, tweak, adjust, cope, learn, and to patiently wait for normality to resume.

They’ve possibly dealt with grief, been through fear, had their workplace closed, been asked to have their role paused, been separated from colleagues, had fewer family and friends to turn to, all of which depleted their resilience tanks.

And now, just as that course of history looks to be coming to an end, they had been seeing headlines in recent weeks of oil costs spiralling, stock markets falling, inflation growing, cost of living sharply escalating….and now Ukraine.

As a leader, be mindful of this impact, and understand that it is felt by different people at different rates.

Know that some have more inherent resilience than others, and that some communicate their concerns more freely than others.

This too, could be a challenging year for all your staff – but your leadership behaviours and actions can be the key that helps them more effectively navigate these tricky hurdles.

Want help with advising your staff, exploring health and wellbeing provision, or something else? Contact us…