If it’s one thing this whole pandemic has taught us, especially for those of us who are lucky enough to still have jobs, is that amidst all the talk about “the new normal” – the people who say that term the most, are most often the ones most resistant to embrace them. And yes, this is directed to all those bosses and the employer class who are itching for their staff to come back and populate the office, and opt to embrace the incredibly annoying world of microaggressions. We see it in their emails in response to employees taking leave, the late evening texts saying “only look at it when you have the time“, in their little facial tics in online meetings. We also see it in the creation of ad-hoc projects involving multiple departments because, as one person shared with me, “the boss is worried that people working remotely have become too detached from the office.”
Management microaggressions are the worst – most of us are not equipped to deal with them face-to-face, let alone while operating remotely,. Now we have to try harder to identify and read them, and worse, we spend more time reading into them. “Was he upset?” “Should I have applied for leave?” In a time when job security is at an all time low, and we are all potentially the precariat, these actions trigger anxiety and distress in many of us, and it sucks.
Not only that, though. It is insidious and downright evil. There has always been an issue with power distance in the workplace, and the COVID19-ridden world has absolutely amplified that disparity. Add to that the limited channels available for employees to safely communicate their fears without being outed, shamed, or dismissed, (ironic in a world where arguably there has been more communications channels than ever) and so we have this horrific recipe for burnout, workplace stress, and mental fatigue.
It’s incredible that a few months ago, HR experts and consultants were rolling out webinars on “managing workplace stress” and articles on “avoiding burnout” which in theory, should equip HR departments and line managers better to handle their staff better. Instead, what has happened is that while employees are encouraged to be agile, and pivot, and simply do more with their time, management opts to remain inert and continue with the pre-COVID management toolkits. There’s no solution, sadly. For office staff like me, we grit our teeth and we remind ourselves that life out there is already hard enough.
I suppose I’m telling myself this, too. Hang in there.