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Leadership and Management During COVID-19 Pandemic

Introduction

The corona virus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has turned out to be an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that has affected the entire world. The current period is characterized by uncertainty, volatility, ambiguity, and complexity that call for a high-impact type of leadership. Leaders have learned how to manage the elements mentioned above, pick lessons along the way, and develop creative problem-solving strategies to ensure enterprises continue to operate optimally. Employees of various organizations have not been spared by the adverse effects of this disease, either, which has aggravated the situation and increased the impact of fear among staff members.

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Shrinking economies, restriction of movements, and general tension during this period have subjected many workers to a myriad of psychological issues. Proper addressing of employees concerns during this period remains one of the critical responsibilities of leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic (Finsterwalder & Kuppelwieser, 2020). Therefore, employees who are key drivers to an organization’s growth may become ineffective if they struggle with emotional and psychological instabilities. Ideal leadership management should be grounded on various core principles to tackle the workers’ concerns raised earlier.

Support for Emotional Health

Following an increased prevalence of mental health issues by workers during this pandemic, managers and supervisors have to recognize the need for additional emotional and psychological support to the employees. Emotional support, in this case, would involve assuring the workers that they are appreciated and that their needs are acknowledged. Creating a room for them and the management to freely discuss non-work-related challenges will highlight what the employees are going through.

Some of the emotional support techniques that the leadership can use include:

  1. Providing comfort and closely monitoring the indicators of struggle such as social withdrawal, distress, and poor performance (Guerrero et al., 2018). The proposed solution will enable the leadership to draw a line between providing the necessary support or referring the workers to specialized care.
  2. Encouraging the workers to connect with friends, colleagues, and family virtually. This will ease the loneliness, which can advance to severe mental conditions. Furthermore, scheduling regular check-ins, especially for employees staying alone in the house, can also offer necessary emotional support and boost their wellbeing.
  3. Making it explicitly clear to workers that the leader is sympathetic to what they are going through and virtually maintaining an open-door-policy for them to communicate, discuss, and, ultimately, resolve their issues.

Model of Healthy Work Habits

Leaders can successfully translate objectives into reality through acting on messages and concepts that they teach to their subordinates or those around them. Indeed, effective leadership should be based on setting the right example for the rest to follow. The described model makes the leader maintain their credibility and remain of significant influence to the subordinate’s behavior (Weber et al., 2020). In this case, role modeling would require the managers to provide consistent guidance and implement actions on assimilating work-life obligations while engaging in self-care throughout this crisis. Leaders should be able to set the best examples for the rest of the team to emulate. Some of the influential role modeling behaviors may include the following:

  1. Ensuring that they are up-to-date on safety and public health COVID-19 responses that are relevant to their team;
  2. Staying informed about wellness resources that are available for the leader and the workers. The manager may also be required to regularly remind the rest of the team about the resources’ existence during virtual meetings, or by posting the information on the company website, as well as social media;
  3. Defining preferences and boundaries regarding working hours. Projecting consistency in their ability to stick to the set boundaries will inspire workers to emulate their manager’s approach to work during the crisis period.

Promoting Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a term that distinguishes work responsibilities from other aspects of a person’s wellbeing, such as relational, social, financial, or spiritual. Work-life integration helps the employees to desist from perceiving work-life balance as a competition between responsibilities and leisure. Based on past studies, failure to achieve a work-life balance has been the source of many employees’ psychological instabilities (Weber et al., 2020; Iansiti & Richards, 2020). In such a case, the worker’s output is severely limited, influencing negatively on the organization’s total productivity rate. Although COVID-19 has brought about various challenges, it has also offered a unique opportunity for leadership to focus on the worker’s wellbeing (Weber et al., 2020). An organization’s management should take advantage of this situation to focus on the worker’s wellbeing and make it the organizations’ culture to positively impact the team’s productivity. Some of the ways that a leader can support the work-life balance among employees and moderate undue burden include:

  1. Finding projects that have flexible deadlines;
  2. Removing irrelevant tasks;
  3. Prioritizing important tasks;
  4. Discouraging close monitoring of new remote employees.

When addressing the employees’ needs, the management should consider what motivates them to forge through a difficult time. The leaders should be actively engaged to establish what can be done to improve their performance. The proposed tactic will boost their morale and have a sense of worth, which is instrumental in promoting their psychological and emotional health (Guerrero et al., 2018). Adopting the rights strategies to handle the impact of this crisis on employees will help the organization to prepare adequately for a response to COVID-19 situations and significantly reduce its negative effects on employees. According to Iansiti and Richards (2020), times like this are characterized by decreasing employees’ morale resulting from the pandemic’s uncertainties. The current economic recession may expose the employees to the reality of losing jobs, which can further deteriorate their enthusiasm towards taking nw responsibilities and tasks. The down-sizing of many organizations currently witnessed due to the effects of the disease has often left many employees unsure of what their fate with the companies foe which they work is going to be (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). Effective leadership will be gauged through the leader’s ability to communicate hope to the subordinates amidst the crisis. One of the critical areas that the leaders should address in expressing optimism that an organization has enough resources to counter the threats it faces as a result of the disease outbreak (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). Therefore, the strategies for generating optimistic attitudes must be sought

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Crisis communication is, therefore, one of the integral parts of crisis management. In this case, the administration will be required to keep the communication channels open for engaging with the employees. Frequently contacting team members and ensuring their wellbeing is a leader’s core duties during this period where business lockdowns are experienced (Weber et al., 2020). Many managers would have a more empathetic response to the employee’s needs by sharpening the emotional quotient. In this case, the organization’s leadership will have to consider increasing the communication speed and reducing unnecessary bureaucracies, which can further hinder fast and efficient communication. The leader should convey a realistic view approach to the current state with confidence for a brighter future.

A survey conducted by Iansiti and Richards revealed a great need for leaders to communicate with honesty and transparency during this period of the pandemic. They should exhibit calmness when passing across the message to the subordinates to avoid escalating the tension that has characterized the crisis (Weber et al., 2020). Choosing the correct mode of communication, which does not compromise the employees’ safety, will be a prudent decision that shows that the management cares for its workers’ wellbeing.

During this crisis, leaders should understand that each employee is unique, which implies that their needs and preferences vary. Indeed, family situations, socioeconomic circumstances, and living arrangements differ significantly depending on an employee (Weber et al., 2020). Having a clear understanding of each worker’s conditions will help address individual challenges brought about by the pandemic. The proposed solution can be made possible by embracing a leadership approach that encourages self-expression and open communication channels. For instance, some workers may experience difficulties transitioning to working remotely, which may affect their productivity if they do not get the necessary support from the leadership (Iansiti & Richards , 2020). In this case, paying attention to such an employee’s challenges would help create an atmosphere of trust and boost their morale to dedicate themselves to increasing their output. A close focus on the employee’s needs also reduces stress on the worker, which is crucial since stress can escalate to trigger psychological and emotional imbalances and ultimately affect their productivity.

In this time of pronounced uncertainty, many employees would appreciate a leadership approach that factors in their input. In an economic survey conducted this year, 67% of the employees noted their desire to be involved in the decision-making process that directly impacted their lives and work (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). 63% of them indicated that their work output is likely to improve after raising their pertinent issues (Iansiti & Richards, 2020) Organizing open forums virtually where the workers can ask questions and air out their views and concerns would make them feel valued and trusted. In turn, an open dialogue is likely to boost their performance amidst the challenges brought about by the crisis. A transformation leadership approach would be ideal for managing the workers to bring the best out of them and cater to their emotional and psychological wellbeing.

It is undoubted that the pandemic has caused the introduction of new dynamics in organizations regarding communication patterns among their members. To some organizations, the crisis has compelled them to lay down some employees to bring down the operational costs (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). Ensuring that the remaining employees with new responsibilities resulting from the laying-off of other workers may retain their loyalty to and trust in their companies even as the organization scrambles to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic has been particularly difficult for leaders and managers (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). However, the feeling of safety is instrumental in boosting the employees’ morale, which has a positive impact on their emotional and psychological wellbeing. Besides, these tasks boost employees’ confidence levels and present an opportunity for them to learn new things, which can increase their overall productivity. In this process of allocating new duties to the workers, the managers should evaluate themselves to see if they have presented equal opportunities for every worker to execute the new role (Weber et al., 2020). Sharing the responsibilities indiscriminately will eventually help the leader to establish different capabilities within the team.

The importance of team bonding cannot be overemphasized, especially during this period of crisis where many employees are physically detached. Team bonding fosters cohesion, which makes it easy to work towards achieving a common designated goal. A past survey has indicated that 50% of the employees in a company expressed their desire for the leaders to create a platform to connect a bond with their colleagues (Iansiti & Richards, 2020). Due to the existing COVID-19 restrictions, the leader should consider activities such as virtual coffee breaks, sparing time for story-telling, virtual lunches, or even playing games through p zoom (Kane et al., 2019). These practices will help to know each other in a relaxed setting. As recorded in past studies, the bonding exercise is crucial in relieving the workers from work-related stress, affecting their capacity to give their best in job assignments. During this crisis, any move that relieves employees’ tension should be welcomed by the leadership since this is an area that has become of great concern. Besides that, the team building activities would be vital in enhancing accountability, which positively impacts their productivity (Kane et al., 2019). The management should explicitly explore other options of virtual interaction, which can bring all team members on board to take a break from the routine of their work responsibilities.

Conclusion

COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought about many changes in the social, political, and economic aspects of people’s lives. Businesses have experienced a large share of challenges, especially in the area of human resource management. The emotional and psychological stress emanating from stress and uncertainty is an issue that needs to be addressed adequately by the management. With the leadership attributing to address workers’ issues discussed in this paper, organizations should be able to navigate through the period and successfully embrace a post-COVID-19 future.

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References

Finsterwalder, J,. & Kuppelwieser, V.G. (2020). Equilibrating resources and challenges during crises: A framework for service ecosystem wellbeing. Journal of Service Management, in press, 31(6), 1149-1162. Web.

Guerrero, S., Chênevert, D., Vandenberghe, C., Tremblay, M. & Ben, A.K. (2018). Employees’ psychological empowerment and performance: how customer feedback substitutes for leadership. Journal of Services Marketing, 32(7), 868-879.

Iansiti, M., & Richards, G. (2020). Coronavirus is widening the corporate digital divide. HBR. Web.

Kane, G.C., Nguyen-Phillips, A., Copulsky, J. & Andrus, G. (2019). How digital leadership is(n’t) different. MIT Sloan Management Review. Web.

Weber, E.Bartsch, S., Buttgen, M., & Huber, A. (2020). Leadership matters in crisis-induced digital transformation: how to lead service employees effectively during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Service Management. Web.

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