What to do when lunch-rooms become hotbeds of fear, gossip and resentment

As we all return to work and our new normal begins, be aware that our employees and co-workers have been through massive trauma and will take time to adjust. Covid 19 hit the world real fast and real hard. There was very little time to prepare for the biggest shock most of us have experienced in our lifetimes and which will continue for some time to come. Fortunately in NZ we had strong leadership and went into lock down quickly, which had it’s upside and it’s downside. We have had the lowest death rate in the world, which is awesome news, but we now have to face a shattered economy.

As we re-surface our people will be very different. Some people will not want to come out of their caves; they will have adapted to working from home and may want to keep doing that. That may be a great money saving idea for your business – less office space etc, or it may not be something you do not want people doing going forward. You will have to be prepared to compromise or make decisions accordingly.

You may have had to reduce hours and/or even have had to make some of your people redundant. With change comes grief. With grief comes backlash. Give people time to settle back into this new normal before you demand too much of them.

After a major crisis is when your leadership will mean the difference between a successful new normal, or a disastrous one. If people are not given honest information about what is happening in your business, uncertainty leads to fear, which leads to gossip which leads to resentment. In the absence of honesty, some of your people will leave and others will quit and stay – their motivation will be gone but they will go through the motions of doing what they are paid to do, not a single thing more.


  • Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Re-assure people that although things will be tough for the foreseeable future you are confident that the business will not only survive, but that given time it will THRIVE. They need YOU to believe in the future.
  • Listen, listen, listen.
  • Tell people the truth – the brutal truth if necessary.
  • Involve people as often as possible when planning the road ahead.
  • Care for your people and trust them.
  • Be available for individuals to talk through their fears with you.
  • Assure people that no major decisions will be made without first involving them.
  • Focus less on results for a while and more on healing the wounds.
  • Look after YOU. You too have been through a massive trauma.
  • BELIEVE. Believe in you, believe in your business and believe in your people. Together there is no storm you can’t survive.

“In my experience, leadership is about three things: to listen, to inspire and to empower. Over the years I’ve tried to learn to do a much better job of listening actively – making sure I really understand the other person’s point of view, learning from them and using that basis of trust and collaboration to inspire and empower.”

– Larry Garfield

Ann Andrews CSP
Speaker, author, profiler, Life Member NSANZ

Ann is the author of:
Lessons in leadership: 50 ways to avoid falling into the ‘Trump’ trap
Leaders Behaving Badly: What happens when ordinary people show up, stand up and speak up
My Dear Franchisees

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