The discomfort you are feeling is grief
Updated: Apr 11, 2021
Mums, dads, teams and leaders around the world are going through a grieving process.
Grief is a normal human reaction to a loss from a disruptive change. We usually associate it with the loss of a loved one. But people experience grief in many situations. New mums mourn their pre-baby lifestyle. Women and their partners grieve an unsuccessful fertility treatment attempt. Your toddler starting a tantrum grieves what she wanted and did not get. Parents around the world were shocked by the schools/nurseries closure caused by Coronavirus and the stresses of working from home with kids and homeschooling. Leaders and organisations are grieving the disruptions that Coronavirus brought to their business.
It is critical to understand what each person is experiencing in today's context to accelerate an individual's or organisation's transition to a "new normal".
Grief has five stages:
The first reaction is shock and denial. In this stage, the person is in disbelief about what has happened, looks for evidence that it's not true and clings to a false, preferable reality.
When the person recognises that things are for real, s/he becomes frustrated or angry, especially at proximate individuals, at home or work.
Bargaining comes in as an attempt to postpone an inevitable change.
Depression. When the person realises that bargaining is not going to work, s/he becomes aware of the losses associated with the change and what s/he has to leave behind. The person has a low mood and lacks energy.
Acceptance. In this last stage, individuals embrace the inevitable future. Emotions stabilise, and the person is ready to experiment and learn how to work with the new situation.
Acceptance is the stage that people struggle with the most.
We, humans, do not like change. We crave what we lost, and the discomfort we are feeling is grief. We get stuck in a very uncomfortable place, where we experience nostalgia about the past, we are looking for the ways to recreate the past, and it does not fit, and we do nothing to create our future.
New mum, HR, lawyer, leader - whichever hat you have on when reading this - I invite you to reflect on the grieving you are going through and then accepting the past as something you cannot change and building a future that you can shape.
Start reinventing yourself and your workplace. Today.
If you are a new mum, accept that your previous life is solidly in the past (i.e. there is no 'getting your life back') and your future is different, and based on experience, I would say it's bumpier, larger and happier. The shortest path to a balanced life post-baby is to accept where you are today and focus on where you want to be (and not where you were) and reinvent a life that reflects your new life meaning and purpose.
If you have a leader or an HR hat on, accept that the business is made of humans who are grieving. Realise that each person might be stuck at a different stage of their grief and that you might have to tailor your approach. The challenge is to inspire and guide each team member to go through the first four stages in order to set the conditions for creating a new, productive, and sensible reality.
The COVID situation has created a world where companies as a whole are grieving. Grieving the loss of the traditions, the culture, the habitual way of work, the way a client looks at us. This provides a fertile ground to review all practices, for the future of the business and the wellbeing of their employees, and in particular working parents.