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Giving Grace and Space in 2021

By Jeff Wilkie, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Human Capital and Organizational Strategies Practice Leader

It’s March 2021. We have a vaccine for coronavirus almost exactly a year later. And where we should be so hopeful, our colleagues and friends are still finding it hard to be upbeat. You’re trying to bring positivity and possibility and it’s SO hard. Too hard. They share strong opinions where we may not understand or perhaps totally disagree.  Our views are so skewed from each other. Why? If we look at the past year…we’ve been through waves of sickness, months of shutdowns and slowdowns and hundreds of thousands of deaths locally and nationally. Some of us have relatives or co-workers who have had the virus or worse, lost their lives.

Think about our work environments now. Where we used to LOATHE video conferencing and conference calls (admit, you hated it) we have grown accustomed to working from home and having flexibility as our positions and technology allows. Thus, we lack the IRL (in real life) interactions that allow us to interpret non-verbal body language, verbal tone and rate of speech. However, there are essential workers in healthcare and those important cogs of economy that require they stay at their posts. For them we are SO grateful.

Why are we all so different in our views about the virus? With the amount of information flowing through social media, politics as usual as well as current news through local and national outlets as well as the kitchen table and living room couch — we are seeing and hearing VERY different views. How are you personally dealing with it? We’ll honor any perspective that you provide, but let us share two words that we are recommending to be used when recreating collaborative virtual or in-person office environments…”space and grace.”

While recently listening to a fireside chat hosted by Wendy Thomas, Executive Director of Leadership Tulsa, we were reminded about the “genius in simplicity” and the power of starting small with the very basic of human needs and working up from there as the world of work is yet again redefined. What Wendy relayed, in part, was that as more and more citizens (our co-workers, family and friends) become vaccinated, and we feel a tender sigh of relief that comes with a layer of security and safety, we will still need to provide ample opportunity for others to interpret the world around them in their own way. More than that, we will have to discover how important it is to listen, and if we disagree with them we must always try to listen harder until we understand their views.

Perception is a tool that we use to make decisions about what and how we think about situations and circumstances. Think of it as our own unique lens (like fingerprints) that only we see through and make assumptions that lead to real decisions. We can provide “space” for them to use their lenses and make sense of their experiences based on previous paradigms and views. We can listen and allow them to use us as a sounding board for exploration of thought and paradigm. To take in opinions and information as we match for alignment with our own views. In addition, when their interpretations don’t match our own, we can give “grace” when they say or do things that don’t align with us. We can honor difference and “listen harder.” Over the next weeks and months to summer, we invite you to provide space and grace as we work to meet people at “where they are” and “who they are.” We may find it to have a positive effect on our own hope!