Maintaining Mental Health During a Crisis

mental health

Dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is emotionally taxing in almost every way. Millions of Americans worry about how and when they’ll get back to the job they were laid off from, where the money will come from for their rent or mortgage or groceries, and what it will look like to once again be free to leave the house and be among friends and family. Worry, stress, anxiety, and depression are an expected side effect of being isolated or lonely for any length of time.

Management is in a tough position. Whether it’s the coronavirus, a recession, a depression, or a general change in the way a business operates, a layoff can trigger similar reactions as PTSD, and those who have kept their job may find themselves with a version of ‘survivor’s guilt’. Even the concern that unemployment may be looming puts a burden on employees. A manager is tasked with maintaining the proper workforce and contributing positively to everyone’s mental health.

Here are tips to keep you and your dealership’s staff in the right frame of mind. 

Keep Yourself Healthy Firstmental health

Professor Joshua Margolis at Harvard Business School says that layoffs in a global crisis like COVID-19 are “emotionally and cognitively overwhelming” for managers and those in authority. Despite the thick-skinned nature of the automotive industry, managers are still susceptible the this harsh reality. He continues, “There’s a great deal of uncertainty and people’s minds are whirring. You’re pulled in different directions. Your heart goes out to people, but you have a responsibility to the organization.”

It’s absolutely going to play on the mind of a manager to deal with reducing a team’s size, but it’s the same when fielding concerns from worried staff. A manager should find personal time to leave work at the office. Spend time with family at home and perform tasks that are satisfying. Listen to podcasts and read books that promote a positive mindset.

As the team’s coach, how you deal with situations will set the example. 

Related: Seven Ways to Maintain a Positive Outlook When Living in Uncertain Times

Allow Team Members to Voice Concerns 

It’s natural that you’ll field questions related to layoffs or reduced hours. It’s front of mind for most people still at work in dealerships. What needs to be their focus while at work is taking care of the customer, and they can’t do that if their worries haven’t been addressed.

Dismissing a team member’s worry is a surefire way to lose their trust. Rather, announce an open-door policy for anyone who just wants to talk. You don’t need all the answers – just to be a listening ear. 

mental healthBe Transparent about Employment

In the absence of information, people expect the worst. Even if the news isn’t fantastic, it helps to be transparent with employees. What may be a good strategy is let your team know that your goal is to retain as many people as possible throughout the ordeal – ideally, everyone. But if the time comes that cutbacks become imminent, people appreciate knowing in advance when they’re the ones on the chopping block. It can be something carefully worded like, “Karen, we’ve been fortunate to avoid layoffs to this point. I wanted to give you the courtesy of knowing in advance that if layoffs become necessary, your position regrettably is among them. Please know that I value you, and we’ll bring you back as soon as humanly possible.”

It’s not an easy conversation to have but it performs three functions: 

  • It lets Karen know she’s valued and respected enough to be kept in the loop.
  • It will inevitably be known around the office, informing others that they’re safe. 
  • It reduces the number of questions you have to field about, “What will happen to me?”

Stay Positive

Undoubtedly, it’s hard to keep a positive view at all times. As a team, promote positivity in word and in deed. Talk about families and the good things that have occurred amid the pandemic. Encourage healthy team members to help those around them when possible. Promote team-building exercises and provide thank-you lunches and incentives.

For anyone struggling with anxiety or depression, and even for those who don’t appear to be, ensure everyone knows about resources available to them such as counselling. It may also be a time to give a day off here and there out of kindness – a mental health day, if you will. As a manager, you can influence your team’s mental health. Ensure it’s in a good way.

Related: Leading Your Dealership Team in a Time of Crisis – Dr. Paul White, NYT Best-Selling Author

Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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