This week here we’ve been talking about how difficult it is to run a culturally cohesive organization when people don’t see one another in person. (As if it’s easy to run such an organization when they do!)
One last thought on this subject came to me while watching a the HBO documentary “The Last Cruise,” about the Princess Cruise that was struck by COVID-19 near the beginning of the outbreak.
The most troubling part of the show was the kitchen workers and other crew members, forced to risk their lives so that the quarantined passengers didn’t have to. “We felt like only the rich would be taken care of,” pastry chef Maruja Daya says in the documentary. “It’s not only the passengers who are threatened by this virus, so why are we still working?”
But work they did—for weeks. “One team, one dream,” was the mantra of the increasingly angry, terrified and exhausted kitchen crew, who worked contaminated cheek to infested jowl to serve the customers, sequestered (but also angry and terrified) in their state rooms.
Those crew members reminded me of some of the people I talk to in the corporate world these days. Disillusioned by or disinterested in the larger organization and its top management, they tell you all the time, some version of: “I love my teammates. I only stay for them.”
All the more reason that corporate leaders who want to hold the ship together in the face of late-COVID workforce ennui—or “languishing” as it’s being called lately—should encourage folks to come into the office as soon as they feel it’s safe: so they can cement their human bonds and warmly welcome any new teammates into the fold.
And if a hybrid environment seems more realistic, then team managers will need a lot of autonomy (and responsibility) to coordinate schedules and create team gatherings to make sure the people who need to connect, connect.
Because if the team is where most of the meaning’s at, then the team better be damned meaningful, indeed.
And if you’re going to rebuild your ravaged company, those teams might be the solidest building blocks you have to work with.