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Grief, loss, burnout: Talking about complex feelings at work

Source | | Bryan Hancock | Bill Schaninger

Worldwide, 2020 has unspooled like no other year in recent memory. The COVID-19 outbreak and ensuing global pandemic are testing all of us. And if you’re a people leader in your organization, you’re in the thick of an unprecedented challenge. Leaders have had to remain focused on moving forward amid protracted and destabilizing uncertainty. That means helping their employees navigate complex emotions—grief, stress, loneliness—that most of us simply are not accustomed to in the workplace, at least at the scale we’re seeing now.

In this episode, Bryan and Bill speak with McKinsey Publishing’s Lucia Rahilly about mapping this new emotional geography: what’s different, what they’re hearing from leaders across the globe, and how best to respond. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.

For more from Bryan and Bill in the future, subscribe to McKinsey Talks Talent on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or the audio player of your choice.

Face it—we’re emotional

Lucia Rahilly: Bill, Bryan, welcome back. It’s been a long time. I wish we could be together in New York recording, as is our wont. How are you? What’s your COVID-19 state of mind?

Bill Schaninger: The client work has been really interesting. It’s pressing stuff: what’s happening to our work, how to think differently about the workforce, even whether we permanently change the workplace. That’s been awesome, and I’ve been blown away by how much we’ve been able to do in a completely remote environment.

But this has also made clear how much we like seeing clients. I’m like a caged animal, honestly. I’ve been in my office for six months. I don’t get on airplanes anymore. The old complaint used to be, “Oh, I’ve got to get on a plane.” Well, see how you feel about that when you can’t get on a plane for six months. The direct connection is important.

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