Hopelessness: Not an Option

May 2020
LeeAnn Bailes Foster

Hopelessness is not an option. I’ll type that again; hopelessness is not an option. Life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people. Life is full of unexpected curve balls. These are facts. 

As Human Resources Professionals, we are looked upon by our organization’s leaders and team members as a thermostat. What? What does a thermostat have to do with being an HR Professional? Merriam-Webster teaches us that a thermostat is “an automatic device for regulating temperature.” Are matters in the organization, the community, or the world running hot or cold? The HR Representative should show immense Emotional Intelligence (proper management of emotions) during times of distress and turmoil. Regulate the culture.

Today, we are experiencing turmoil like never in our lives. After reading this article, my hope is for you to have encouragement to care for yourself as you tirelessly care for others, tools to assist for employees and to have increased hope.

Do you remember Cindy Lou Who and her relatives, the Whos of Whoville? Cindy is the leading lady along side the Grinch in the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch thought he took everything from the Who Family. He stole Christmas. Or, did he? On Christmas Eve the Grinch witnessed little Cindy Lou Who and all the people in Whoville smiling, singing and dancing. The Grinch stole all of the visible ‘things’ from the Whos; however, the extrinsic thing, the material and visible, were not missed. 

Ah ha! The happiness of the citizens of Whoville came from invisible things. Just like the culture in our workplaces. The intrinsic, invisible things matter the most. COVID-19 cannot steal our joy unless we allow it to do so. During this time, hold fast to the invisible things like helping others, camaraderie, companionship, laughter, compliments.  

How do we remain positive for our leaders and employees? What can we do to help them? 

As HR Professionals, we must gauge our own “Positive Energy Levels.” As you continuously care for others, you must be self-aware of how you are feeling, physically, mentally and emotionally. Consider doing these things to keep you healthy:

  • Perform positive self-talk. Who better to give you a pep talk than yourself? You know how you are feeling and what you need to feel better. Affirm to yourself what you have been doing to help others. Spend some ‘Me Time’ each day. 
  • Feel the Helper’s High. Dopamine is excreted when we help others, when we are generous. Be still. Let yourself celebrate the good feeling from doing good works.
  • Apply past solutions. Think! What worked in the past to give you energy? What gives you strength? Reading, running, playing the piano, singing, learning, etc.  Repeat those solutions.
  • Look for a silver lining. End each day with a “Tell Me Something Good” moment. The worst situations produce good. Be aware of the good around you.
  • Think about happy things. Memories are ours to pull up when we need a lift. Make yourself laugh and smile. 
  • Banish negative thoughts. Stop them. Change the negative feedback loop to a positive one. Go no further. Think a happy thought immediately.
  • Get positive advice. Approach a member of your personal Board of Directors. Be sure the person is  a trusted advisor regarding the area you need help. Ask what he/she would do to pump up the positive energy.
  • Stay away from too much bad news. Only allow so much time per day to listen to news stations, scroll through Twitter, etc.
  • Perform tasks that are a result of conflict resolution. Stay focused on making things better. Be proud to be part of the resolution. 

Now, that you are feeling strong and well, let’s move on to our co-workers. Following are virtual activities to inspire connectiveness while we are separated. Some of them are from Zappos. They and others are doing innovative and uplifting initiatives to help their community of employees:

  • VIRTUAL HAPPY HOURS: Have departments/workgroups set weekly times to share a drink together via video conferencing. Each participant should share something good that has happened to him/her the past week. Bottoms up! 
  • VIRTUAL GAMES: Zappos posts Bingo cards for employees to print remotely. Throughout the day the company posts a letter & number. Prizes were sent to the winners.
  • VIRTUAL INTEREST GROUPS: Set up Book Club Groups. Present a book for all to read and discuss. What about Foodie Groups? Participants can share cookie tips, recipes, take-out options, etc. A Fitness Group can hold fellow members accountable for working out. Netflix Groups can pick a series to watch at the same time; then, plan virtual gatherings to discuss them.
  • VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLES: Consider holding weekly, virtual business updates to keep employees informed regarding what has happened, is happening and will happen soon. Informed employees are engaged employees.
  • VIRTUAL FAMILY ACTIVITIES: E-mail pictures with hidden Easter Eggs in them. Have the family gather to search for the eggs.   
  • VIRTUAL GAME GROUPS: Get away from it all by creating a video game group with co-workers. Get those competitive juices flowing.
  • VIRTUAL LUNCH/DINNER GROUPS: Prepare your lunch, cook your dinner; then, dial in co-workers to share regarding the progress of the projects you are working on.

The Whos from Whoville refused to let their joy be stolen by the Grinch. Let’s support each other. We will prevail through this pandemic. As history tells us, our ancestors prevailed repeatedly. We can, too.

One of my favorite songs is Never Going to Steal My Joy by Mandisa. Following is an excerpt of the lyrics:

“So, get up, stand up and rise above it
If every plan that you made goes so wrong
You don’t have to give into the struggle
You may be down but don’t stay there for long
In every hopeless situation
here is a song of redemption
Life may push my heart to the limit
But I won’t let go of the joy in my soul
‘Cause everything can change in a minute
And the world (COVID-19) may try
but they’re never gonna steal my joy”

At the very lowest point of my life, of course, excluding losing my Dad and Mom, my big brother Jimmy and I were running together on a course we had run several times. Halfway into the run, I just stopped. I was weak from stress and worry. I wasn’t sleeping or eating well. I told Jimmy I could not go any further. He gave me two great pieces of advice that day. One was, “Where there is breath, there is hope.” The second piece of advice will be revealed in another article!

We have breath. We must remain hopeful. Everything will be OK. Hopelessness is not an option!