Shocked by the hugely negative consequences the recent pandemic has caused to human life in many aspects, it is not cynical to realize that a lot of positive outcomes have also occurred, like, for example, the acceleration of digital transformation, which has facilitated our living and working under adverse circumstances.
A positive effect of COVID-19 that has not been recognized is the new human-centric management approach which has started being communicated in several business environments.
It is not without surprise to see so many companies evangelizing anthropocentric* management, to hear so many business leaders prioritizing culture and values over profits and revenues.
The question that naturally comes is: Is this true or fake? Does it reveal an authentic intent or a well-performed show? Will it last or not?
The above questions are a normal result of the contrast between what we listen to now and what used to be the known reality in most of the businesses up until yesterday – in some cases it still is. The typical reality was that most business leaders did not give a penny for the well-being of their people; they cared only about the financial results regardless of how their people felt or how hard they had tried to be able to bring the desirable scores.
If current declarations are true (after the pandemic became global), then it might mean that things have changed. What was considered a luxury (= taking people into consideration before any decision) has become a common practice for most enterprises, what used to be ignored (= how people felt) has pursued a central position, what was underestimated (personal well-being of employees) is now considered a priority. “People” seem to have conquered the center of the business universe (as they should, anyway)!
Underlying communication through conference calls, web meetings, virtual business gatherings is full of respect, humility, compassion, solidarity. Leadership seems to have obtained a more human-centric style. Bosses and managers have become servant-leaders taking care of their people, trying to understand how they feel, struggling to help them handle the challenges ahead! The (business) world seems to have turned upside-down!
Really or does it just seem to be so?
Has the pandemic resulted in a sudden and eventual shift of opinion and practice?
Has COVID-19 kicked arrogance and authoritarianism out of business rooms – even the virtual ones?
Has character prevailed over previously glorified expertise?
All these will remain unanswered questions for long, especially by the “doubters”.
The doubters consist of a special group of people-with-authority who consistently used to apply human-centric values in their daily business practice, also before the explosion of the pandemic. They are the ones who now talk less, while keep acting in the same humble way. They are the ones who wonder how come and the previously “mad-for-numbers” business leaders turned out to be so compassionate, kind, and appreciative. They are the ones to wonder where this huge capacity of emotional intelligence was hidden. To say the truth, I bear with them.
And I am thinking of the following four scenarios to be considered in order to explain this peculiar “shift”:
a. It might be an inexplicable miracle – let us enjoy it and stop growling further.
b. It might be the right time for the mature evolution of previous management techniques used until yesterday – wish so!
c. It might be a temporary approach, mainly due to the current unprecedented occasion – it’s a pity, it will fade soon afterward.
d. It might be huge hypocrisy, an “artificial” reply to the global crisis we are experiencing – oh, no!
Something will stay on
Whichever of the four scenarios comes true, one thing is for sure: Something, even slight, will be left behind. Something, even little and insufficient, will remain. Something, even weak and fearful, will be there for the wise and brave ones to grab it and grow it further. People have come in the center of the discussion, human behavior has come in the center of business statements, and it is taking steps toward the center of future business aspirations. People are having the opportunity to obtain the position they deserve, also in the working environment.
COVID-19 has given innumerable lessons learned to the business community; it has started numerous changes in business practices. It has “pushed” significant alterations in business environments that would need decades to be applied under the previous “normality”. Like it or not, the working frame is – slowly but steadily – changing. What becomes important now, is whether the changes will contribute to more human-centric work life. That’s the bet, that if won, yes, we should be grateful to COVID-19.
*anthropocentric = human-centric (the word “anthropos” has a Greek origin and it literally means “(hu)man” in Greek)