You might well feel the last thing we all need at the moment is more psychological jargon telling us how miserable we all are. We already know how we feel. We know we are suffering from burnout and stress. We know over and over again: we are in a pandemic. And, moral fatigue! What even is that?!
Before we go on, let’s make one thing clear. These blogs are not randomly generated overseas. The words in our articles come from lived experiences. They are written from a place of exposure to life’s elements. There is no such thing as “we are all in the same boat” – we are not. We are all navigating rough waters, but not in the same vessel. Some of us are in fishing boats, some in catamarans, some in yachts, a lot of us are in dinghies, and many of us are trying to dog-paddle our way through. But what is the same, is that at some point, we are all struggling in our own ways. These articles are written from walking the wobbly path of life, they are from experience, and ultimately, from the heart.
BACK TO THE TOPIC AT HAND
It is imperative that as leaders we are informed about moral fatigue and its dangers. But equally as important is to stop being made to feel responsible for things that are beyond our control. We desperately need to retain our workforce by working in a system that lets us care for ourselves and for our people properly. No one goes into work to make the ‘least-worst decision’ and our clients and our industry deserve our best selves.
As leaders, we know now there is a way out of this uncertain time. But it is hard. Patience and empathy are easier said than done. We need an open conversation about responsibility without autonomy. About the dangers to staff retention from indecisive management. And about the disconnect between what we are experiencing and the expectations put upon us. All of these weigh heavily on us as leaders, and no one is immune to the heaviness of moral fatigue.
Moral fatigue put simply, is the psychological impact of being made to act against your moral compass or being unable to do what you believe is right. Moral fatigue happens to us all, it is when the “right thing to do” becomes blurry.
How can I care for myself and my team remotely?
Is there a way to you cope with fear and anger because of insufficient resources and also focus on the task at hand?
What if I have to physically go to work, how do I provide for my family and keep them safe at the same time?
How do I keep business going and also follow along with protocols to keep everyone safe?
With all this on your plate, how on earth do you take care of yourself while you also are taking care of others?
Moral fatigue can hit anyone in many ways, but none more so than now. That is, during a time of a pandemic. A time where all our moral decisions are out in public view. A time when judgment is rife. A time when empathy and self-love are crucial more than ever before. Many businesses at the moment are suffering more than just financially.
Many of us are faced with:
- Senior Executives are making out-of-character decisions that reflect personal fears.
- Teams are frozen still from indecision as the ground continually shifts and changes beneath them.
- Days become punctuated with emotional meltdowns from people you have always relied upon in a crisis.
- Impatience and intolerance surround you at every dreaded petrol station or supermarket.
- Judgment is rife because you went to the said supermarket when you should have chosen home delivery, or at the very least, click and collect.
And back home, you might be disagreeing with loved ones about the right response to the vaccinations. That is, is the situation as serious as the media and politicians and health experts are claiming? Or are they all exaggerating the risks with a hidden agenda? What is the right amount of physical distancing seriously? Why should we all cop it for really a minority? Is this even a fair and just way to frame these types of questions?
These are some of the signs that the prolonged impact of covid-19 is causing moral fatigue in the people you work with as well as your loved ones.
WHAT TO DO
At any moment, some individuals in an organisation are acting kindly while others are not. Additionally, some are working together while others are competing. How do we know how to treat each other if we don’t understand each other?
Put simply, understanding other people’s emotions and behaviour is a crucial skill of a leader. It enables us to resolve conflicts, build more productive teams, and improve our relationships. Critically, now is the time to emphasise the importance of Effective Communication.
There are 5 key components to addressing moral fatigue.
1. ACKNOWLEDGMENT | THE CLICHÉ IS REAL
You are not the only one going through this. We need to acknowledge the current situation and accept that everybody is feeling some type of angst during these times of instability. Crucially, we have to be more forgiving of others but also more forgiving of ourselves. And remember, it is okay to feel freaked out. Everybody is. The answer lies in how we respond to these feelings.
2. START OR INCREASE POSITIVE SELF TALK
The way that we talk to ourselves can either promote a healthy outlook or self-criticism and lower self-worth. After a negative event, we can either tell ourselves “You should have done it better/this way” or we can tell ourselves “You did the best you could under the circumstances you were in.”
Importantly – look for the lesson! When we experience a situation in which we go against our better judgment and our moral code, we are undoubtedly going to feel negative about it. The best thing that we can do is to accept what has happened, try not to judge ourselves, and think “how could I do this differently next time?” or “what has this taught me about my values?”
“Pain Plus Reflection Equals Progress.” – Ray Dalio
3. SLOW DOWN BUT ACTIVELY ADAPT
Thinking about ‘just getting beyond this’ assumes a future state where the problem no longer exists and everything is the same as before. It’s too simplistic to suggest we will all be ok – many of us won’t be unless we actively adapt.
A common result of moral fatigue is impatience. With ourselves and others. When we try to think through frameworks that no longer serve us well we can become increasingly impatient. And the more we do so, the more mistakes we make, Thus leading to even more frustration.
As the old adage goes, you can not fly the plane while you are building it.
4. MORAL MIRROR
When you are unsure if something is ethical, apply the reflection test: ask yourself if you could look yourself in the mirror after doing it.
Consider, would my self-image be helped or hindered by the action? Will I be able to sleep at night after doing what I’m setting out to do?
5. TALK, TALK, TALK
Even to strangers as you do your lap around the block. Start off with a nod. Next time a wave and hello. And before you know it, you are chatting! It is often only in conversations with others that we can hear a different, more helpful way to think about or make meaning from morally distressing situations.
It can be helpful to get support about feelings that come up when dealing with these complex moral situations. Leaders, particularly at the moment, may not feel that they have the time or energy to immediately engage in getting support, but it may be an important protection against the social withdrawal or negative coping that sometimes happens as a result of moral injury.
Can You Learn Empathy?
Short answer – yes! Empathy is like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets. But first, your empathy muscle needs to be trained in the right way! Otherwise, it will not function at its optimum level. There are 7 Best Ways to Strengthen Your Empathy Muscle
1. Question Everything: how else do we begin to understand what we don’t know.
2. Understand Behaviour: to know how to communicate with the four different behaviour styles in certain ways to increase empathy.
3. Actively Listen: very different from hearing what people are saying to you.
4. Life for a Day: if someone bothers you, think why? Spend one day in their shoes to find out.
5. Interact with Different People: to empathise with others we need to be exposed to their ways.
6. Teach: pass on your Empathy Training to others to create an empathetic workplace.
7. Yes More: be more open to acceptance – less of No, but and more of Yes, and in your day-to-day interactions.
BE AWARE and BE INFORMED
Look out for symptoms of moral fatigue in yourself, as well as in others. Have open conversations with anyone and everyone, but never judge or criticise. Remember the importance of empathy and communication, and above all, self-love.
All your training is tailored to your team and can be delivered virtually during the lockdown period.
Gather your team online and we will take care of the rest – learning and laughs included.
or call 1300 833 574 for a confidential chat.
We are here and happy to help 🙂