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  • Chris LeBeau

Emergencies: real and imagined

Over the weekend I caught up with a couple of friends around the fire pit in their backyard. As working parents, it’s safe to say balancing their jobs while raising a toddler is exhausting them at a whole new level.


One works a demanding corporate job, where she has been a high performer for years. Not long after stay-at-home orders proliferated, her organization’s leadership began releasing heartfelt, supportive messages about how much employees are valued. While it is nice that leadership espouses these, here is just one example of what that often ends up feeling like for my friend with her current boss.


The other day her boss told her to take Friday afternoon to unwind. A lovely gesture. But not long after this, my friend received multiple 🚨EMERGENCY🚨 emails from her boss. Emails that were followed by text messages to make sure she’d received them and could get to them promptly. This in a nutshell demonstrates how an organization, leader or manager can say one thing but do another. If this is a one-off or occasional instance it’s one thing but when it’s repeated as it is for my friend it’s another. When it comes to employee engagement Gallup reports, “Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores.”


It is time for leaders and managers to define what constitutes an actual EMERGENCY to make sure they only sound the alarm when it is one as opposed to a perceived one. How much of the time is something truly urgent vs. a result of 1) poor communication and procrastination that ends up requiring rushing or 2) the culture lionizes people who work frantically?


My friend has occasionally talked in the past about switching jobs but has remained loyal to the company. Based on the lack of compassion shown to her during the pandemic, it’s safe to say her employer will lose her once things stabilize if not before. I assert that if the company condones behavior like this, I would just stop with the “you’re important to us” messaging. Each time they tell their employees they matter and then proceed to violate that through their actions, they break their promise. Better to never make a promise than break one in my opinion.


Here is a short exercise to help you define what constitutes an actual emergency. In my role, as a manager or leader, here are the things that are time-sensitive when they arise:

  1. [item 1]

  2. [item 2]

  3. [item 3]


Please explain in detail why this qualifies as an emergency:

  1. [item 1]

  2. [item 2]

  3. [item 3]

Please explain in detail what the actual consequences would be of missing them:

  1. [item 1]

  2. [item 2]

  3. [item 3]


Based on the exercise above, are any of the items you initially listed not an actual emergency?

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