Empathy is Essential During Pandemic’s Tough Decisions

Published in Union Leader:

Employers have to show empathy while making tough decisions to maintain morale and avoid getting sued for their actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, a human resources specialist says.

During a UNH Center for Family Enterprise & CEO Forum webinar on Wednesday, Amy Cann, managing partner at HR ROI Consulting in Portsmouth, told close to 40 participants that they should explain their business reasons to employees being asked to show up to a job site while others work remotely during the state’s stay-at-home order.

“Some things you just can’t accommodate. Some things you need to have the person there. And you may even ask them, ‘What can I do to make you more comfortable or to stay?’” Cann said.

She said it is very important that there is no perceived discrimination if employees are laid off.

“Try to just be very consistent with the decisions you do make. I realize it is not always going to be fair,” Cann said.

Cann said wrongful termination lawsuits can be broadly based on a number of things, so she advises business owners to walk through their game plans with an expert.

Cann also recommended that employers follow all the guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor is following the CDC’s guidance.

Michelline Dufort is the director for the Center for Family Enterprise at University of New Hampshire.

She was pleased with the questions asked by business leaders during the webinar, which ranged from in-the-weeds tactical questions to bigger-picture topics such as managing employees remotely and motivating a workforce during current challenges.

Dufort said people in the business community have reached out to the center in recent weeks and that the center is doing everything it can to be helpful.

“The COVID-19 impact is like nothing we’ve seen before. Business leaders and owners are working to figure out how to do the best for their business and their employees in an ever-changing world. Policies and rules are being written as things develop,” Dufort said. “No one can truly anticipate the next scenario that’s going to land on their desk. All we can do at the center is to continue to point them in the very best direction we can.”

The Center for Family Enterprise has resources listed on its website, paulcollege.unh.edu/center-family-enterprise, and is happy to take any questions business owners may have, Dufort said.

Union Leader Article, April 12, 2020: https://www.unionleader.com/news/health/coronavirus/empathy-essential-during-pandemics-tough-decisions-hr-specialist-says/article_c7805626-7647-5379-8173-9a1ce3e95d21.html?block_id=883785

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