Get Ready For The Work Team Dumpster of Fall 2020

Managers, this is going to be bad, and you’re the only ones who can help even a little

Heads up: If you’re a manager, you manage managers, or you’re managed by a manager, you’re about to go through a buzz-saw this fall that could land your team straight in the dumpster.

Some time between last Monday and the Monday four weeks from now, the children of your team members are going back to school. In previous years that would have meant not scheduling meetings for back-to-school day, knowing that parents might have a weird schedule so they’d just catch up later in the day or week. This year, the first day of school is the first day of the apocalypse.

There are a few situations you can find your team members in:

Their kids are going back to school full-time “just like usual.” This sounds great, but within a month the virus transmission rate will be out of control and those kids will be home all day quarantining or sick, and will then do the rest of the school year remotely.

Their kids will be doing school remotely online. For kids older than 12, your team members won’t have to be with them constantly, but will still have to check to make sure they’re attending class. For kids younger than 12, your team member is going to have to facilitate a lot of the online school every day.

Their kids will be doing some truly cockamamie hybrid model involving being in school a few days a week and online learning the other days, which is going to be the worst of each of the two previous cases.

They’ll be homeschooling their kids without having an external organization delivering classes to the kids. In the Beforetimes, homeschooling while working full-time was a preposterous idea, but of all the Fall 2020 situations it’s actually the least bad for your team member and for you because of the combo of time required and flexibility.

You can see how this is all going to be impossible. And I’ve seen way too much out there about how this isn’t the fault/responsibility of employers to even acknowledge, let alone fix. But that’s both incorrect and stupid, because anyone who’s ever gotten into a fight with a toddler knows that the toddler always wins. Either right then or fifteen years later. If you, the manager, put your team members in the position of choosing the job or their kids, they can only choose their kids. (And even if they can make it look like they’re choosing the job, they’re done with you and will walk away the first chance they get. There’s a reason so many women leave jobs 1-2 years after coming back from maternity leave, but that’s a topic for a different piece.)

The best response is to pull as many unnecessary stressors off your team members as possible, so that they can pour everything they have left after dealing with the kid school stuff into doing their jobs well. That includes making it absolutely clear that kids and school are just givens to be worked around, the same as your organization and team works around laws and policies and certifications and everything else for the public good. The alternative is that your team members are so stressed out with too many responsibilities and with trying to apologize for their kids that they really can’t focus on their work at all and everyone loses.

PSA: Managers who are already certified in the Tilmor Process for managing have been thinking about this for months, know exactly what situations all their team members are in, are in the middle of working on plans with everyone on their team to cut out things that don’t have a lot of value so that everyone can do their best work and respond to changes from all directions, and they and their team members are feeling like they’re working on it together instead of like adversaries. I’m happy to train your managers to use the process so this becomes just another thing in 2020 instead of a really big problem that causes hatred inside teams.

Yes, I know that there are organizations and managers that think an easy solution is to let go anyone with kids and just hire people who don’t have kids who need tending. Those people will learn. Using the approach of removing unnecessary stressors helps not just team members with kids, but also team members with older or vulnerable relatives or dependents, team members with health or mobility complications, and any team member who does better when they feel better in general.

Do this right now:

1. Schedule one-on-ones with all of your team members to talk about the school situation (even people who aren’t technically parents are affected by this, so definitely talk to everyone) and start figuring out solutions that actually work. Fair >>>>> equal.

2. What are all those extra (both meanings of “extra”) processes/systems/tasks/traditions/holdovers/whatever that you’ve always wanted to get rid of? Now’s your chance to suspend them during this coming school year. Next fall you can assess objectively and decide what to add back.

3. Wish this was all less drama? Ask your HR to put you through Tilmor Process certification and all these plans and communication and big thoughts just turn into part of your weekly routine with your team members and it becomes really difficult to shake you up.

You can do it. Your team members can do it. Your team members’ kids can do it. You will all have so many more skills and capabilities by this time next year. Stay proactive.



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