When I worked at a university, we were always cautious about promoting the fact that we were a “safe campus.” We were – up until that point – but it was out of our control whether the safe status would continue. One incident prompted by someone else could abolish the safety record and it seemed prudent to focus on promising what we could guarantee vs. what was more of a hope.

I think organizations find themselves in a similar situation as they prepare to re-open when COVID restrictions are lifted. Can they assure us that it is safe to do so? No. They can point out precautions that they are taking (and presumably were taking before the virus) but should not absorb the risk associated by making unsubstantiated claims to promise safety.

I also wonder whether leaders are considering the long-term impact of thousands of dollars and person-hours that are being expended to deliver that extra mile of precaution. Have you seriously weighed whether it is justified for your organization to invest significant resources to UV-light or sanitation bomb a facility every day vs. wiping down heavily-trafficked surfaces? Have you investigated whether it the best use of your organization’s funds to super-sanitize after every transaction, or would moderately- improved precautions show better stewardship and return on investment? Maybe you have decided that it is worth it for your organization to go all-in and implement very visible and extensive precautions, but have you still stopped short of promising that they will be fully effective?

Be intentional about deciding what you will and will not do. People like it when you do “more” and tend to get upset when you revert to “less.” Before you promise “safety” or enact a host of new measures, consider how long you are willing to do so and whether the overall cost of your efforts are prudent. There is no definitive end in sight to the virus, so whatever you choose to do, you may be doing it for quite a long time. How will you justify “stopping” or cutting back without creating a public relations issue when you do so?

Beyond a certain point, safety becomes a personal responsibility and consideration. Think carefully before taking long-term ownership to provide something that is beyond your scope to deliver.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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