Time for CEO’s & HR Heads to Act with Assertiveness

In India, we have a peculiar challenge of three generations living together at the same home which is not seen in most countries. One of the best pieces of information given to me was by Dr. Sanjay Sinha in a conversation during the early days of the advent of COVID 19 was when he said, “Three generations of people living together in the same residence is a recipe of disaster.” This gives us a bigger reason for us to exercise extreme caution and show restraint to our urge to travel, socialize and invite visitors.
It is extremely natural to see in the same house a family where grandparents who are over 75 years, a couple around 40-to-50 years of age and few teenagers or people aged around 20 years live together in three bedrooms. These families are the ones which need to be extremely cautious. Much later after I heard from Dr. Sinha that the same thing happened to a family at North-West Delhi where 17 people who live in the same house got infected. The members of the family included a four-month-old baby and a bedridden grandfather aged 90 years. It is not uncommon to see three or even four generations living together in India and COVID 19 is not going to break the joint family culture in India but we need to exercise caution.
This is where organizations would also have to play a helping hand. I had posted a video on social media urging the CEOs, MDs and Heads of HR to consider WFH as an option for those who live with senior citizens provided such employees can perform their responsibilities diligently without compromising on the output of work. It is quite understandable that certain people’s presence is critical at the offices and they need to take care of themselves when they get back to their homes.
But what is extremely annoying is in certain organizations the CEOs and HR are budging to the questions posed by those whose presence is critical saying if they come to the office then others too need to follow. This is where both the empathy and assertive communication of a business leader comes into the equation.
Empathy to understand that carriers are most of the time asymptomatic and a 20-to-50-year-old can be an asymptomatic carrier and transmit to a senior citizen whose life can be put to danger when that person contracts the virus. Virologists are also of the opinion that the chances of transmission are higher in an indoor atmosphere. Hence the chances of getting infected at offices are higher and the same to be transmitted to others are even higher. One of the biggest challenges with Coronavirus is the asymptomatic cases. In my close circle, a person traveled to his village in Kerala on May 8, 2020. He was in total isolation from March 22nd and had spent a couple of hours in the Kerala border exposing himself to the public although he was wearing masks and taking adequate precautions. Randomly he was tested and despite being 100% asymptomatic the test results came positive and he was at a PHC till June 18th. He had neither tested negative nor developed any symptoms. This is the challenge with asymptomatic cases and business leaders need to keep this fact in mind before permitting everyone to come to the office.
Assertiveness is to probably make people from certain functions understand that their presence is extremely critical for the business continuity and communicate to the same group of people that a set of people coming to the office does not become the reason to put pressure on other functions like Marketing or a Data Analyst or a person from similar function who can seamlessly work from home (WFH) without affecting the productivity of the organization. This will to communicate is lacking in some of the business leaders in organizations. Hence business leaders need to be assertive and practice empathy in their communication.
JVC Sreeram
Author of “No Reference Point”
The Ultimate Handbook to succeed amidst a Global Pandemonium & Beyond
Publishing Globally on August 24th 2020
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