The New Year is here! Working on the basis that 2022 will be just as mediocre, difficult, and agonising as 2021, there’s no better time than now to cast a mystical eye over predictions for the 12 months ahead. And to think, you were still panicking over that company Christmas card. Too corporate? Too friendly? Worried that your employees noticed that you were, in fact, dead behind the eyes? It’s over! It’s January! You’ve got a whole year to build up to the painful moment when Brenda from Accounts stops by your office to ask if you were unwell when the Christmas Photograph™ was taken. So what you looked like you’d just come back from an eighteen month tour in the Jungles of ‘Nam?
Stop! Enough of that! It’s 2022! And most importantly, you want (nay, you need) a whistle-stop tour of our predictions for what’ll be big in internal communications for this year. After all, there’s no time like the present for revaluating what it means to be a professional, and how best to act like someone who’s future-ready as we get back to normal in the months to come.
This one’s easy. 2022 is the year of being nice. Remember when we spoke about Vishal Garg, King of Decency, Tact and Kindness in this season of goodwill to all men? Yep, that’s him, the Better.com CEO who fired 900 employees just before Christmas. All made that little bit more palatable by the fact that he chose to do so via the tasteful medium of Zoom. We predict that, all things considered, stunts like this won’t be too hot with your employees, or indeed anyone, over the year to come. Or ever, for that matter. Granted, this is an extreme example: Mr. Garg was particularly cruel, and Better.com most likely has more employees than you do. The principle, however, remains the same. Be kind to those you work with. Ask them if they’re OK. Mean it. Be flexible. Appreciate they have young children, elderly parents. That they’re tired, that they’re trying their best. Empathetic leadership is all about being compassionate. An empathetic leader listens and understands that everyone has their battles to fight. They might not be the same as yours, but they still matter. How to be an empathetic leader? It’s not so hard- Just consider the way that you’d like to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot. In short then, think, “What would Vishal Garg do?”. Do the opposite.
One other point of note: In a cute little addendum to the Vishal Garg story, a years-old email sent by Mr. Garg to employees has resurfaced, just months after his company made it into the Forbes Finance ‘Fintech 50’ List. “HELLO BETTER TEAM,” benighted CEO Vishal begins. “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS… SO STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW. YOU ARE EMBARRASSING ME.” If you, like Vishal Garg, have ever written an email in which you have actively decided to use the invective “DUMB DOLPHINS”, seek professional help. That is all.
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Or: ‘Fun with your friends who are not really your friends because you pay their wages so when you tell them you’re considering making them all redundant but you’re only kidding and you’re actually giving them a raise so it’s all fine but nobody laughs and Christmas drinks are off and now Sandra from HR won’t come to the company dinner because she “can’t take this anymore” and she’s “tendering her resignation Monday morning” and Greg from IT won’t look you in the eye in the corridors because he’s scared you’re going to ask him what happened between him and John from regional sales on that team-building weekend you all went on to Bognor Regis last month’.
Yes, it can be that bad. Humour in business, as demonstrated in the above scenario, is a dangerous beast. Only attempt it if you’re sure you know you can pull it off. We’re advocating for more empathetic business leadership in 2022, which means friendlier relations between employees and employers: that means kindness, consideration and thoughtfulness. It can also mean jokes. Now, laughs with pals are all great; they can lighten up the work environment and make colleagues comfortable with the corporate atmosphere; going to work shouldn’t be a chore. However, if you want to institute a more enjoyable working dynamic in 2022, do it gently, and never at anybody’s expense. There’s nothing worse than being the butt of an office joke. You’d be surprised how difficult it is for some people to know when you’re telling the truth; warmer business relations are great, but remember the personal-professional divide, and the fact that, if you’re feeling anxious that your jokes may have been misinterpreted, then there’s a good chance they were. If nothing else, kindness wins over comedy every time.
This is the gold standard for 2022. Last year we spoke about all the usual suspects: Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos (shudder); whilst we may question their morals (here’s lookin’ at you, Jeff), we know their game and how they play it. Now, part of their success is that they know who they are, and what makes them function best, be that weirdness, charity work and salt-of-the-earth family unity, or plain old criminality. This year is time for you to find that same Unique Selling Point and run with it. 2022 is the year of learning what works for you as a business professional and how to develop your skills around a core of owning your story and decluttering your narratives. It’s about breaking down your walls to be more open, to accept who you are and make that person business-orientated and a dynamic organiser of those around them. We’re particularly fond of apps like Bunch, a five-minute-a-day motivation app that discovers your style, asks you to own your story, and follow tips to develop your position as an empathetic leader. 2022 is all about self-awareness: someone who is kind, decent, and knows what works for them.
All things considered, 2022 is set (at least where I am in the UK) to be a lot like last year, and the year before that. COVID shows no sign of ending here. The health service is strained and the education system is in pieces. The government drudges on, wriggling pathetically towards the 2024 general election, and for the sweet, warm release of political death. All in alll then, not a great prognosis. But despite everything, there is a chance that, in the business world at least, the pandemic has been a catalyst for some small amount of positive change: that, just maybe, the tide has turned on the internal communications of the past and that, irrespective of whatever else happens, there will be a stronger, kinder kinship between employers and employees in the years to come. If you can be some small part of that in 2022, you’ll feel all the more empowered for it. And if we can give you a little help along the way? Even better.
Now, time to start planning that Christmas card.
(Author: Anna Hanlon)Interested in the Own your Story program? Please drop us a line