The Collective Question (TCQ): Addressing fear in the workplace

Friday, May 29, 2020 at 12:21:54 PM GMT+10:00

 

WATCH: Boardroom.Media Reporter Velvet-Belle Templeman speaks to Mark Sewell, CEO of Warrigal about how the aged care sector is managing fear through their COVID-19 response

 

In this episode of The Collective Question, we welcomed Mark Sewell, the CEO of one of Australia’s leading aged care providers, Warrigal, back into the Boardroom.Media studio for his second interview in the series. 


Last time Sewell joined us, we spoke about what it means to build a ‘collective culture’ in the workplace. Since then, the world has changed significantly with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. This has brought about a lot of strain on almost every industry and especially aged care, home to some of the nation’s most vulnerable. 


Discussing how the sector is coping, Mark highlights the disparity between public perception of the aged care industry and that of medical health care. Despite the enormous pressure on the aged care industry to protect their vulnerable customers, public sentiment has shone a spotlight on medical as the space to direct our collective gratitude. Aged care is often seen as the “quiet cousin” to that of medical healthcare and they have gone without much of the “recognition or thanks” given to the broader medical sector. Sewell explains his own company’s response to highlight their achievements by communicating gratitude to the teams through video updates and company wide emails.


The uncertainty of the times has led to wide scale fear, which has permeated its way through media and public communications. Sewell flags “tone” as important to consider in spreading fear and distress, and encourages objectivity in rational decision making.


 “There’s this underlying emotional tone...I think so often it colours and it taints and it affects all the information we’re reading.”


In order to reject fear from our collective response, Sewell encourages leaders to communicate hope instead. Through Warrigal’s own culture surveys he tells us that negativity and fear are permeating the industry, providing a greater incentive to lead with support and generate trust. 


“Almost everything we’re trying to do, the changes, are built on trust.”


Sewell recently appointed a clinical advisor to the Warrigal team, providing sound clinical advice to oversee the company’s decisions throughout the COVID-19 period. This decision was made not only to assure that the company is taking the most appropriate precautions, but also to assure the staff, residents and families that they are being supported from the top down. 

 

“I think very, very regular contact by the most trusted person in the leadership team is probably what most people need at this time”.

 

Despite not having all the answers and no one being able to provide definitive, conclusive certainty, Sewell highlights that being upfront about not knowing is another tool to generate trust and work to eliminate fear based responses.

 

By Velvet-Belle Templeman, Boardroom.Media

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