Trust and Empathy During a Crisis - American Society of Employers - Mary E. Corrado

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Trust and Empathy During a Crisis

HR is front and center during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing right now.  The everyday responsibilities of HR shift while dealing with a crisis such as this.  HR and leadership must create a sense of trust and empathy. 

HR plays an important role in making decisions regarding working from home, paid time off, and workplace safety.  It’s important to put people first during a time like this. As Microsoft President Brad Smith stated recently, “People want to work for an employer that cares about the bottom line and the wellbeing of its employees.”  And as an HR Executive article recently stated, “CEOs should be chief empathy officers first, and HR leaders need to be guiding, advising, and supporting them in making the right people-focused decisions.”

I’ve compiled some tips below for building trust and showing empathy as organizations and their employees deal with COVID-19.

Share Information with Empathy and Optimism
HR and leadership should recognize the uncertainty employees are feeling.  Understandably, some organizations need to reduce hours or furlough employees.  When communicating this, express empathy and also express a positive outlook towards the future. Communicate how your plans will lead to a positive outcome in the end.

Be Honest and Transparent
Always be honest when communicating with employees.  Even if employees don’t always like what they hear, they will appreciate your honesty and will trust you in the future.  Hiding bad news never turns out well.  The truth will eventually come out.  And when it does, if you’ve told a different story prior, you will have lost trust.  ASE has always been transparent with our employees.  It’s part of our culture, and it has continued during this time.

Provide Regular Communications
It is so important to communicate regularly during this time.  Keeping employees in the dark will only lead to rumors as they try to predict what is going on.  Imaginations can run wild.  At ASE, we normally hold all-company meetings once per month, but during this time we’ve been meeting every other week and sometimes weekly.

Lead with Empathy
I saw a quote in Business Insider that I feel is perfect, “Leadership isn’t about a title.  Leadership is a relationship.”  Now more than ever, this is true. Leaders must recognize that it’s not business as usual right now. Employees are experiencing pandemic-related stress and it is crucial to recognize that. Ask employees how they are doing.  Ask them how you can support them.  ASE has always put a big emphasis on emotional intelligence, which is necessary to be empathetic. I have been very honest with the ASE staff, and we communicate often about the difficulties we are all experiencing.

As we prepare for the return to work, empathy will play a very important role.   HR and leadership need to recognize that employees may be afraid; they need to feel safe at work.  They still have children at home since schools are closed.  They are balancing home schooling and work. It will be a very long time before things are back to “normal.”  In the meantime, we need to support our employees with empathy and promote trust.

How are you promoting trust and empathy during this time?  We can learn from each other about how to support employees during a time when they are the most vulnerable.  Email me at


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