ROANOKE, Va. — Many years ago my organization participated in a very large attitude-and-happiness survey of its entire employee base. This was a very large organization, and it was committed to sharing the end results with employees.

The survey contained numerous questions about the leadership of the organization, and I remember thinking as I filled it out about my boss, who was a senior vice president, and the president of the corporation.

The off-site laundry in this healthcare organization was housed in a building that included many corporate offices and was directly across the street from the corporate office. Both buildings made use of the lunchroom and food-serving area located just outside the laundry.

Laundry employees often saw the corporation president in the lunchroom, along with other corporate officers.

I was required to share the results of the survey in small group meetings where the employees could easily ask questions. I was also able to ask follow-up questions on the topics that were surveyed to get a better feel for any issues or concerns that the employees had that caused the ratings. 

I remember being surprised by my employees at their answer to my question, “When you think of upper management who specifically comes to mind?” The vast majority of the employees said that top management to them was me. Yes, they saw my boss and the corporate president frequently, but to them the only top management person who really mattered was me.

This was a response I did not expect and it profoundly affected my management career from that point on. I came to realize that in a time of crisis, whether caused by a virus, a snowstorm, or a tornado or other weather-related event, my employees looked to me for guidance and direction.

Today as the world battles the coronavirus/COVID-19, we are all listening to advice from various medical experts and trying to keep our employees safe while still meeting the needs of the healthcare facilities we supply.

Now is the time for managers to truly lead their departments. Employees need to understand the need for our essential service and why, when other industries are shutting down, it is vital for them to come to work.

They need to understand what precautions they need to take to safely handle soiled linen and why these precautions will help protect them and their family.

They look to you for guidance. You are the only management person that they rely on. Your boss and other corporate officers will have little or no effect upon their attitudes. They look to you.

Are you ready to meet their needs for guidance and direction and lead your department through this difficult time?