Another COVID Symptom: Silence

When recently visiting my Dad in his long-term care facility I noticed a new addition to his floor. A big cage with a lovely bird in it was sitting just outside his room. As I was looking at this, the head nurse wandered by and told me that the bird had a mate for many years and when she passed away the bird stopped making any noises. He was completely silent. If you will pardon the poetic license, we both knew why the caged bird didn’t sing. Grief.

Each of us have been experiencing a form of grief over the past many months. We have lost a sense of normalcy, routine, and connection to others. Many points of meaning in our lives have been altered or completely shattered. Grief can cause fatigue, a sense of separation from others, and feelings of disorientation or hopelessness. I’ve noticed this manifesting as posts on various social media platforms have been quieter and have witnessed colleagues become more or completely quiet during online meetings. People have explained that they are hesitant to share ideas or advice because they aren’t sure that anyone is even listening. In essence, the pandemic and the ensuing grief, have silenced many of us.

Anticipatory grief is also impacting our abilities to speak up and contribute. As we begin to see a change in how we can and should operate, another loss will be experienced. Whether people are, or are not, excited about returning to the office (in the many different forms that are being discussed), it will still be a loss of what we have been experiencing. Thinking ahead to the upcoming changes, which are ensconced in multiple uncertainties, is also manifesting the symptoms that grief can cause. Feelings of despair and “why bother?” are not uncommon, causing people to not communicate or contribute. Once again taking poetic license, silence does in itself have a sound, and the lack of contributions have consequences.

So, what happened to the bird in this story? Well, one of the main reasons that I noticed him during my visit was because he was singing. The beautiful music drew me to the cage. As the nurse concluded her story, she explained that after many months of silence and processing grief, the bird decided that it was once again time for him to share his voice.

We must be like the bird!

It is important to recognize and honor our own, and others’, forms of grief caused by the pandemic. We must then continue to use and share our knowledge with others. HR professionals need more than a seat at the table. We should stand at the center of the “storm” as we are best positioned to see the multitude of complexities and stakeholder needs. We need to use our expertise and connections, which are in essence our form of beautiful music, to help others progress and succeed. This will draw others to us. We matter and have impact. Let’s hit the figurative “unmute” button and ensure that we actively contribute and connect.

Share your voice and be silent no more!

Originally published on the Double M Training and Consulting blog.


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