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How to Deal with Emotion and Empathy Fatigue

Read the latest post from Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels from Veritus Group:

How to Deal with Emotion and Empathy Fatigue

By Richard Perry and Jeff Schreifels on June 8, 2020

We all know it’s true. This pandemic and now the unrest in the country is taking its toll on us. We’re stretched and tired.
As Theresa Tapocsi, one of our Client Experience Leaders, said in an email to Jeff and me last week: “it feels like the first week of quarantine all over again.”


Everyone is drained. MGOs, managers, leaders, donors. Everyone is having conversations they’ve never had before, where they’re discussing sensitive things that they must process.
Some MGOs are even avoiding donor calls altogether, because they can’t bring themselves to process certain topics. Some MGOs are even reverting back to the early quarantine standby: “We can’t be asking for money now, this other cause is so important, donors need to be focused on that, we need to leave them alone.”


And slowly we run the danger of losing our way.
Into that reality comes a fresh reminder in an article in the Harvard Business Review by Rebecca Zucker. Theresa passed on this article to us last week. In this piece, Rebecca talks about the emotional tax on us and the fact that we’re all saying we’re doing fine when, in fact, “to some degree we are worried for our own wellbeing, the health of a loved one, feeling guilty about falling short at work or helping a child with school…” etc.


And then she goes on to suggest that managers should adjust their expectations for performance, and she outlines the following Do’s and Don’ts to do so:
Do:

  1. Re-prioritize projects and deadlines – identify what can be put on the back burner (or even cancelled altogether) and what deadlines can be extended.
  2. Re-assess the level of detail or quality needed for these projects and your metrics for success. What is “good enough” or realistically achievable?
  3. Re-balance work among team members, taking time to understand their personal situations and individual differences in capacity.
    Don’t:
  4. Don’t expect the same level of responsiveness or availability as before.
  5. Don’t assume others handle this type of situation the same as you or the same as how they’ve handled other types of stressful situations in the past. This is a whole new ballgame.
  6. Don’t assume that others will tell you when they feel overwhelmed or need help — you’ll need to give them explicit permission to do so; show them it’s okay for them to ask for support.
    If you’re a manager reading this, Jeff and I suggest you take steps to adjust your expectations. I know you need to hit revenue goals. But is there a softer way to get there? Might you have to adjust your total budget because trying to keep the same budget as before is putting too much pressure on the team? At the very least, having an open conversation with your employees would be good.
    If you’re an MGO or PGO reading this, there are several truths and facts that are operating in your life at this time:
  7. Your donors are experiencing the same stress and fatigue you are. Remember that as you talk to them. It’s a good thing to acknowledge that reality and talk about it.
  8. Avoid the temptation to stop connecting your donor’s passions and interests with the need your organization is addressing. Often, during times like this, the best thing a donor can do for themselves is to help others. So, giving to a cause that the donor is truly passionate about is a positive action, NOT a negative one. Don’t fall prey to the story out there that now isn’t the time to be asking. It IS the time, but only if you’re asking the donor to do something they truly want to do.
  9. Take care of yourself. That means talking more to friends and family around you, as well as to your work colleagues and others. There is no need to go solo. I routinely talk to my neighbors, even a grocery check-out clerk, my business partners, my friends, sometimes strangers, about how this is affecting me. It really helps, and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in all of this. And it helps the person you are talking to, so they can process this material and content as well. Also, part of taking care of yourself is to take Rebecca’s list above of do’s and don’ts and apply them to you personally and to those around you. Do that.

Taking proactive steps to acknowledge the emotional and psychological impact of current events on you, your donors, your manager and leaders is the best thing you can do to take care of everyone you have a relationship with.

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