14 May Barrier gestures of caring and trust to achieve deconfinement in the new “phygital” world
The crisis that we are targeting is probably unprecedented, in particular because of its twofold dimension : an economic crisis and a health crisis linked to an invisible pandemic that is difficult to understand and for which we have few references. It logically generates a climate of fear and mistrust. Anxiety then becomes the norm.
In the face of this double crisis, management has massively and brutally mobilised telework with its share of negative consequences: a cold and efficiency-oriented relationship with work. Conf calls are devoid of informal exchanges and “wasted” time discussing things that appear to be chatter but which social science researchers have shown to provide a large part of the social link, regulations and daily innovations in the company.
In addition, we were taken by surprise: who can say that they know how to manage and work at a distance? Even individually, we therefore manage our fatigue, our increased isolation, our need to exchange with colleagues poorly. For those who have stayed at home away from the field, we frantically follow webinars and conf calls that exhaust us, annoy us and distract us from the meaning of our commitment. Not to mention the spillover into our private lives.
“Far from the eyes, far from the heart”: distance, emails are a drag on relationships. The unspoken become misunderstandings, the written sentences remain and become legal. The right emotional distance can no longer be regulated by being in the same room to tell each other things with truth and sincerity.
What will we do tomorrow with the masks on without shaking hands, being far away in the office, looking worriedly at the colleague who is coughing? It will be a matter of restarting companies with the focus on execution in this context where procedures will have to be strictly followed and anxiety always present. There is a real risk that the flexibility and plasticity of the room for manoeuvre will be overlooked.
Perhaps it is then necessary to return to fundamentally human values, so human that they sometimes seem a little simple: trust and benevolence. In the face of cynical and selfish temptations, of the “nothing to do” or the feeling of injustice, this is undoubtedly the best antidote. These months of confinement have undermined our confidence in the future, and to overcome our fears, it will be necessary more than ever to create another expression of benevolence and trust in this new “phygital” world.
The challenge is to take benevolence and trust out of the soothing and self-righteous discourse of mere human quality. We are not benevolent and trusting by nature. Just as we are not by nature attentive or respectful of health rules. No, benevolence and trust are voluntary biases based on skills and deliberate actions. They are therefore a matter of competence and managerial technique. So the question is not: how to be benevolent and confident, but how to act in a benevolent and confident manner, especially today? In the same way that the prevention of the pandemic required the generalisation of barrier gestures, the restoration of our collectives must be based on real barrier gestures linked to trust and benevolence!
So, what are these gestures for trust and benevolence? Here are the main ones, according to us:
- Reaffirming the trust we have in each other by scrupulously applying the principle of subsidiarity where each decision is taken at the right level. In this way, each person can exercise his or her powers of judgement and responsibilities, thus strengthening his or her sense of control and personal satisfaction in the face of this crisis which has undermined self-confidence.
- Lighten internal procedures to make daily life easier and to be at the service of employees faced with the loneliness of a computer crashing and the paperwork to be filled in…
- Shorten attention-draining distance meetings and distribute the floor so that everyone feels included and recognized.
- Re-explain the meaning so that everyone can project themselves and thus explain the challenges facing the company. More than ever, we need to understand and have a global vision of the stakes, constraints and the strategy to be implemented by our organizations to initiate the recovery.
- Create emotional security to combat our ancestral fears that have been rekindled. Faced with our fears of being absorbed, dissolved, eaten and disappearing, we must act with determination to create a breeding ground for emotional acceptance:
- Increased attention and listening to emotions and “weak signals” through the telephone, screen or mask.
- A non-judgemental reception of what is said; exceptional conditions must bring as much tolerance as firmness.
- An exaggeration of gentleness and empathy “be gentle on principle: you don’t know their problems”. Our colleagues have lost loved ones, have been ill, have been isolated, have lost their bearings. It would not be tolerable not to show empathy.
As with the pandemic, there are generic barrier gestures and barrier gestures that depend on your company, its activity and its specificities. But, one thing is certain, all these barrier gestures of benevolence and trust, to relaunch our companies, place more than ever the human being at the center of the organization. Let’s invent them together.
Olivier Truong (class of 96) and Fabien De Geuser (Professor Escp)