Q&A with Social Sciences Associate Dean Dr. Sam Dutton
The only certainty these days is that things may be uncertain from one day to the next. People are impacted in all aspects of their lives, both personal and professional. We’ve seen creative considerations in life and business to try to minimize disruptions as much as possible in the midst of unexpected change.
As any business owner knows, when processes and procedures are interrupted for any reason, it can throw a proverbial wrench into a workflow and leave employees questioning what is going to happen next. This can have a negative impact on morale, and if it isn’t addressed in a timely and reassuring way, the damage to morale may not be undone.
COVID-19 has given employers the greatest morale challenge in memory. How can leadership mitigate this? Dr. Samantha Dutton, PhD, LCSW, associate dean, Social Sciences at University of Phoenix, shares her thoughts on maintaining healthy morale through continuity, applying her military experience as the basis for civilian labor initiatives.
Q: Military personnel are structured in a formal chain of command to respond in a nearly automated way. This helps make uncertainty more manageable. How would you apply these same ideals to a civilian workforce?
SD: The military has had many years of preparing responses to uncertainty. When on active duty, we practice what to do if (fill in the blank) happened. Uncertainty is unrealized opportunities and failures are successes. If you have been preparing your workforce to have the same goal(s) all along, then your employees will know what to do or what not to do to realize those goals.
If the goal is to make a widget but you can’t produce the widget during a crisis, what do you want your workforce to do? The goal is still to produce the widget, but now that this OPPORTUNITY has presented itself, what do you do? Perhaps you make modifications, thinking through what works and what doesn’t work.
Also, the workforce will take direction from the leader. It’s easy to be the leader when things are running smoothly. True leaders emerge in challenging circumstances. Good leaders calm the workforce, give direction, offer transparency and show they are human as well.