Imperfect #7 - Managing with war next door
A message for managers of people who are affected by the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces
There are many Ukrainian and Russian people living here in Berlin, and many working remotely from their home countries. The invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces is not only a horrible tragedy unjustly brought upon those who live there, it’s happening right here in continental Europe. And it’s affecting people we interact with every day. It’s in the news, in our company slack rooms and our zoom calls.
The invasion, which started yesterday, has already killed and displaced many in Ukraine. Those who live there are facing a horrible threat, and their loved ones abroad have to endure the fear and uncertainty of not knowing if they’re safe or what’s going to happen to them.
Meanwhile, Russian nationals abroad are at risk of getting backlash by people who hold them responsible for their government’s actions, which they aren’t.
My advice for managers at this time is to support your employees even more than usual. Prioritizing those who are directly affected by this war, but not forgetting the rest.
Check in with them. If you haven’t yet, do it today.
Be aware that people might be affected who are nationals of neither country. Call upon your knowledge of your supports to determine who’s exposed to the war and how.
Ask what they need, and get it for them if you can.
It might be money. That’s ok. It makes sense, because it takes money to travel, to pay for supplies, to book stays, to do anything. Consider one-off bonuses. Some companies are doing just that.
Consider granting extraordinary time off. People need time to check-in with loved ones, make arrangements, process things, and generally keep up.
This should go without saying, but your Russian employees do not represent their national government. You obviously need to understand that, and make sure everyone else does too.
Check in and offer reassurance that you won’t tolerate animosity towards them, and ask them to come to you if they need support
Address any displays of animosity immediately. In public if they happen in public, privately if they happen privately. You might need to remind people that individuals are not their governments.
Don’t expect much right now, and manage expectations from stakeholders and higher-ups accordingly. Your reports who are directly affected by the war are probably needing to pay attention to urgent real life matters. Those who aren’t, might still be suffering from the general anxiety and sense of dread that a war brings. Be mindful of that.
When in doubt, ask. Ask people if they’re ok to work, and if so, how much. Be prepared to change your plans.
This is not the time to push for a release, it’s a time to care for one another. When we as managers say we support our reports, well, now’s the time to show what we mean.
Be kind, be thoughtful, be generous. The war will end, and our choices today will echo for a long time in our careers.
A good thread with practical advice on supporting coworkers affected by the invasion:
More examples of companies supporting their workers with extra money or time:
Thanks for reading. Hopefully next time we’ll resume the tech topics, but with everything that’s going on I couldn’t post about OKRs and performance metrics today. Stay safe and take care of each other.