Organizations tested positive or negative during Covid-19?

In the past few months, with deadly second wave of Corona virus in India, I have seen and heard of many cases that unveiled the Empathy and Apathy culture in different organizations.  I feel these instances can truly differentiate a good organization from a bad organization. So next time, when you look for that job change, also check how these organizations treated their employees during the pandemic. This could be another criteria to select your next dream company in the future.

Let’s briefly review what these terms mean in the context of an organization.

Empathy is the ability to step into someone else’s shoes, be aware of their feelings and understand their needs. In the workplace, empathy can show a deep respect for co-workers and show that you care, as opposed to just going by rules and regulations. An empathetic leadership style can make everyone feel like a team and increase productivity, morale, and loyalty.

On the other side – Apathy is a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, or concern about something. It is a state of indifference, or suppression of emotions. An apathetic culture shows minimal concern for either people or performance. Employee apathy can result in negative corporate culture, high turnover, and reduced productivity.

When an organization treats its employees with empathy, they become capable of experiencing and imparting empathy in turn. Similarly, when the employees receive apathy, they give it right back — to customers and colleagues alike.

In these difficult times due to Covid, empathy and apathy are the two most predominant areas where organizations have either flourished or faulted. According to Martin Luther King “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”. And this holds true for an organization as well.

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Here are some of my observations as how people in different roles viz – Entrepreneurs, Managers and Employees showed Empathy or Apathy during the pandemic time.

Empathy

Entrepreneurs / Organizations

  • Paid leaves to their employees in case they or their family members get infected by Covid
  • Sending medical kits to their employees
  • Covid helpline to cater to employee’s requests for hospital beds, oxygen concentrators/ cylinders and mental counseling
  • Salary benefit to family members of a deceased employee
  • Free education for children of deceased employees

Managers

  • Relaxing the tasks timelines for the Covid hit team members
  • Absorbing the project delays and communicating the delays and reasons well ahead in time to senior management
  • Giving extra time off to their team members so they get the time to grieve for their lost family members

Employees

  • Taking extra work off their colleagues to keep the project on track.
  • Provide emotional support to their Covid stricken colleagues
  • Regular communication with them and with their family members (if needed) to provide support and encouragement and to keep the affected colleague in positive frame of mind.

Apathy

Entrepreneurs / Organizations

  • Not budging from the product release timelines.
  • Expecting an early product release
  • Not able to inform or convince customers about the Covid situations in the team and creating undue pressure about a client facing release for the team members.

Managers

  • Making the infected team members work, even after they are tested for Covid +ve
  • They may do daily health checks with infected team members, but not giving them off days, as they must work on an upcoming client demo
  • Not keeping any information on how their team members are coping with their food and medical requirements. Some of these infected team members might be living alone and would not have anyone to take care of them.

Employees

  • Behavior that can put other colleague’s life in danger – hiding the information about being in contact with a Covid +ve person
  • Not isolating immediately after getting the Covid symptoms

Particularly in these pandemic times, with employees having gone through grief, loss and lockdown (and most living in fear) empathy shown by their employer will have a lifelong impact on their minds. Many of them are expressing their gratitude towards their organizations on social media channel. Some of these gratitude statements are:

  • Proud to be part of such a company
  • Thank you for holding our hand in this difficult time.
  • Never letting their employees feel alone in tough situations in their lives.

There were also few employees, who were not lucky enough and were mistreated by their organizations. Here are some of their statements of resentment against their employers.

  • We did so much during corona times, but they didn’t reward us, they cut our pay.
  • They just want more money, and we’re the ones paying for it
  • I feel my company doesn’t deserve my loyalty and dedication. I am going to change my job soon.

It is human nature to pay back the favor given to them. So, the employees who are grateful towards their employer will be the ones to stay longer in that organization. Whereas employees who have been at the receiving end from their employer will move out ASAP. Employees are carefully watching every move that the organizations are making in these turbulent times. This will give another data point to the job seekers to choose their next job.

How the organizations managed their workers, for good or ill, during this last year and [how they’ll manage them] over the next few months will dictate just how much at risk an organization is in losing their best and brightest.

The organizations that are rising to Occasion during this pandemic, will be the Employers of Choice. And the Organizations that are showing Apathy, they don’t care. Not until it affects them!


Anju Aggarwal

Anju is a certified PMP® professional and Scrum Master with over 20 years of experience in Information Technology, developing and managing mid and large-sized IT projects/programs involving distributed teams across various industries and clients in Asia, US, UK, and Europe. She has an extensive software design and development experience of over a decade on various platforms and technologies She is now managing client accounts in Artificial intelligence and machine learning domain for the health care industry. At present, she is in a Senior management role with a US based healthcare company and working on devising the strategies for business growth & transformation She is Masters in Computer application and Alumnus of IIM Indore She is an active contributor to Project Management forums, her articles have also been frequently published in various Project Management journals.