What sentencing Reform, Covid-19, and Management have in common.
A “hot” political topic of late has been sentencing reform. I always thought I understood the concepts and principles, but that is a far cry from being able to truly relate to what injustices prisoners experience. Then came Covid-19, (I am not being tongue in cheek)
I have been “locked” up, in my home, with my wonderful family and I still feel like I am going stir crazy. I can sit out on our porch, go to the supermarket, and take walks in the forest which surrounds our town. And yet, I am a “prisoner”. I cannot travel around at will and when I do, there are many conditions that need to be met. I do not know when my “sentence” will end and like so many other people, I feel like I did not earn this “incarceration".
So do I have a newfound respect for “real” prisoners?! Absolutely. We have been “locked” up for 2 months and it feels like an eternity. I cannot even begin to imagine what inmates feel after being incarcerated for years. Imagine getting locked up for an absurd amount of time relative to your crime. Now imagine being locked up for an absurd amount of time in a place with living conditions you would not wish on your worst enemy.
Sometimes we can make the mistake of thinking understand something or understand what someone is experiencing. As a manager, we may be inclined to say, “I know just what you are going through.” Although it is usually said with the best of intentions, it can actually be a highly offensive statement.
We are all living through Covid-19 together but that doesn't mean we are experiencing it in the same manner. Maybe someone else's children require constant attention and structure. Perhaps your home is X amount of square feet larger than an employee’s so you have the luxury of working out of a room with a closed door, while they are sitting at their dining room table with their entire family. Maybe other people deal with stress differently than you.
The point is we do not always know what someone else is going through but there is a simple way to find out. ASK! "How are you doing today?" And then, use every ounce of self-control not to say until they respond. You would be surprised how many people are dying to answer that question for real, yet nobody ever gives them an opportunity to do so.
Go ahead. Try it with your employees. Ask them. And keep asking them.