Memo: the new emotional contract of work

If Covid-19 has offered us one positive, it’s the way that the last 12 months has ripped off our work masks and shone a bright light on who we really are. This new note of authenticity holds the key to a better future of work for everyone.

March 18, 2021

In 2020, we saw our co-workers’ humanity like never before. We dropped our guards, and our colleagues glimpsed versions of us that we normally reserve for loved ones. We were invited inside home offices, or out and about on local walks, with everyone from junior execs to CEOs joining calls and meetings from their smartphones, and connecting in more natural and spontaneous ways.

So while many of us have been affected by the pandemic, with lives changed and loved ones lost, the suffering of the past 12 months also brings with it an opportunity for renewal.

The caring agenda

The language of work is being transformed before our very eyes; empathy, compassion and equity are the headlines. Mental health and wellbeing have reached the top of our CEOs’ agendas.

Post pandemic, we can reboot the way we work; after all, humans have always been a highly adaptive species. The greatest risk is to go back to the way things were before the virus arrived on our shores. Lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty have opened our eyes to a simple truth, we are stronger and happier together.

The four pillars of workplace trust

By focusing, as we have over the past year, on the common good, we’ve experienced very different conversations at work. These conversations have a different flavour to them, they feel more open and honest. We are listening to our colleagues more intently, we’re asking “how are you?” and lingering longer to hear the answer.

As we prepare for the post-Covid era of work, we have a choice to make. I believe that the most significant and impactful decision any organisation can now make is a commitment to authenticity.

Because, if you want me, your employee, to come to work as my best and most authentic self:

  • I need to trust you. If you want me to trust you, you need to show me that you Care about me, and that you’re on my side.
  • I want to see you as fully Capable in everything you do; that includes telling the truth, and being open and transparent both internally and externally.
  • Consistency is important to me. You’ll do what you say and say what you do. In fact, in this new world of work, organisational justice will flourish, conflict will be nipped in the bud, and I won’t have to second guess your decisions.
  • And finally, Candour really matters, and because I know you care about me, when we talk about my work, I’ll know you believe in me and want me to perform at my very best.

Above all, truly authentic organisations and self-aware leaders will create emotional safety, and when you do that, you unlock human potential.

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Catherine de la Poer is a leadership coach, digital anthropologist and Founder at Halcyon Coaching. She works with individuals and teams to grow their emotional intelligence.