Social Distancing: Its Impact on Workplace Culture


At a time when the World Health Organization has announced that the Coronavirus is a Pandemic, language like social distancing and an abundance of caution have become common place in conversations worldwide.

In actuality, these concepts have been around for quite some time outside of the associated use with healthcare issues.

The role of social distancing and having an abundance of caution have an impact on achieving our career development goals.

Social distancing is nothing more than avoidance and it is played out in the businesses day in and day out. People avoid each other people in business for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which are the silos that are usually inherent in an organization.

Avoidance is a means of distancing ourselves from those people and those situations that we find challenging and confusing. Leaders often create social distance for themselves, in an effort to not get entangled in the details.

An abundance of caution requires leaders to make a decision on a current situation that might impact a future event or experience. When using an abundance of caution, leaders can make the best decisions logically and rationally. Caution signifies that there has been considerable thought put into the decision.
Human nature has people avoid things in order to achieve thoughts of self-preservation. People will avoid people who they think threaten them or their way of thinking, people protect their own stories fiercely.

People avoid people who they perceive cannot do anything for them in the careers. People will avoid people who do not have the power or authority to support them in achieving their career development goals.

People who are engaged and then create social distance have a catalyst to drive this change in behaviors. More often than not in the professional world, when someone becomes obsolete or irrelevant, they no longer have value to others. This is when social distancing might be most evident.

Avoidance can be hurtful and painful even in the workplace, where feelings are not always acknowledged. This may have an impact on performance and the relationships needed to get work done.

People who cannot find a valid answer to What can you do for me? are more likely to avoid that person. When there is no perceived value for that person in their career, which leads to social distancing and avoidance.

Avoidance comes up when people don’t want to catch what others might have. When people are laid off or fired, others might very well avoid creating any perception of having been allied with those people. Guilt by association motivates people to take actions that may not always be in alignment with the company’s core values.

The act of avoiding or creating social distancing in the workplace can come with limited compassion or empathy. People are generally not equipped with the skills to be handle big emotions or feelings, so many will avoid them all together.

Leaders have a responsibility to be present and engaged with others; when leaders avoid and create social distance, they are not creating an inclusive and engaging culture. Over time this will impact the morale, performance, and results of an organization.

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