behind the curtain

Managers: Don’t Forget What You Saw Behind the Curtain

The curtain shielding the more personal side of our colleagues’ lives was ripped open these last few months. For sure, we saw some things that horrified us—yep, it’s hard to erase the image of a half-dressed spouse in the background of a Zoom call. However, we also had a peek into the real lives of our colleagues, and if we do this right, we can leverage what we’ve learned into becoming better managers.

We now realize that the team member who regularly left work at 5 PM on the dot doesn’t have a poor work ethic, but instead hurries home to help a dyslexic child with homework. We now understand that the colleague who frequently stepped out of meetings to take personal calls isn’t unprofessional, but rather the primary caregiver of an elderly parent. And we now appreciate that the colleague who never joined the team for after-work drinks isn’t anti-social, but instead working a second job to pay off mounting student debt.

As we begin this next phase of work and consider how to reset our work culture, do not forget what you’ve seen behind the curtain. Rather, take what you have learned about your colleagues and integrate this into your thinking and into how you manage. Even as you continue to respect personal boundaries and privacy, tap into your more nuanced understanding of your team as you make decisions.

Our teams have shown us that they are enormously capable, even as they navigate complex personal situations. Let’s take this moment to show them that we’ve noticed and that we trust them to get the work done.

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