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Compassionate and Inclusive Management in 2021

Today's post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Are we really less than two weeks into 2021? Or, as I heard someone say the other day, “This week has been a really long year.” It sure has. The increased tranquility many of us were hoping for as the new year got underway has decidedly not come to pass. I'm hopeful it lies ahead, as more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine and political stability returns.

The upheaval of the early days of 2021 has me thinking about one of the predictions we made for this year: “Compassionate and inclusive management that puts employees' lives ahead of work will become a leadership mainstay.”

We've been talking for a while about the critical importance of wholistic employee wellness and that only became more critical in the last year as issues around physical and emotional safety, mental wellness, burnout, depression, isolation, social unrest, and political turmoil have weighed heavily on everyone.

Our prediction this year really revolves around the idea that organizations that will excel in 2021 will be led by compassionate and inclusive management that emphasizes empathy, wellness, and belonging.

One of the best articles I've read on the topic was this piece by Nika White in Entrepreneur magazine. Nika makes some really important points upfront in her article:

  • 53% of adults are experiencing higher levels of stress and worry because of current events.
  • Issues of stress and anxiety in the workplace are nothing new – especially among women, people of color and other marginalized groups.
  • The more your staff feels supported, acknowledged and understood, the more they can positively contribute to your business.

So, what can you do about it? Nika provides four suggestions:

  1. Add regular check-ins between managers and staff: This is one we've written about in the past here at The Workforce Institute. Without taking the time to get to know your employees as people you really can't provide them with whole-person support. If, as a manager, you don't already meet regularly with your direct reports, start now. Even if you don't have a deadline or anything pressing to discuss, hop on the phone or video call for a few minutes just to say hello and see what the person is thinking about - it will help you both feel more connected.
  2. Revisit your Employee Assistance Program benefits: This is something your HR department should be doing on a regular basis - talking to employees about whether or not the current EAP program is addressing their needs and providing help. If you work at a smaller organization where there is no HR department, put someone in charge of looking at this issue each year and talking to employees about what would be helpful.
  3. Be a more vulnerable leader with your staff: Perhaps no one has written and talked more about the importance of vulnerable leadership than Brené Brown. Her brilliant podcast on the topic provides an easy and enjoyable way to learn more about how to become a vulnerable leader and why it's so important. I can say from my own point of view that being vulnerable with employees, showing them you don't have the answer to everything, and being open about your own struggles shows them that they can do the same. Giving people permission to be honest and authentic can only lead to good things in your organization.
  4. Create more flexible workspaces and schedules: This is going to continue to be a critical issue for this year and all the ones to come. People's personal responsibilities are in many ways different now than they ever have been. Some people can't go to their office, while other people have to go to their place of work. There are issues of fairness and equity and questions about what the future of office space will be. The key here is to remain flexible and work with your employees to support them in creating the best work-life negotiation they can.

A huge thanks to Nika White for a wonderful article that gave me - and I hope you as well - a lot to think about.

The more we can support and encourage each other in the coming weeks and months, the better 2021 will be for all of us.

How are you working to create or contribute to a compassionate and inclusive workplace? Tell us about it in the comments!

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