Being a good boss is never harder than in a time of crisis when difficult decisions need to be taken quickly and circumstances may be out of your control. How you behave now speaks volumes about your business ethics and can have a significant impact on your long-term reputation, says Management and PR Consultant Sarah Waddington from Astute.Work.

Ethics are for life, not just the good times

If I was to mention Wetherspoons right now, what would your response be? For many it would be to express disgust at a brand which was initially willing to withhold payment from staff and suppliers until a Government financial support scheme kicked in, only u-turning after a public outcry.

But what about Barbour? A fashion brand which has responded to the national shortage of Personal Protective Equipment by repurposing its manufacturing capabilities and using its supply chain to make gowns for front line staff. A very different story, right?

These are brands which will live in the memory long after the immediate aftermath of the Coronavirus pandemic has faded.

What you do now will impact your bottom line in the future. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on Trust and the Coronavirus published in March surveyed 12,000 people across the world. A staggering 65% of respondents said that brands’ response to the pandemic will influence their purchasing behaviour in future and 37% said it already was.

Ask the difficult questions

There are a number of questions any management team can ask itself as it faces the issues created by COVID-19 and as we head towards a global recession. A key one is whether your organisation lives accountable leadership or just talks about it. This can be demonstrated in many different ways:
 Do staff feel safe and valued? Are you treating them responsibly and communicating openly?
 Are you in regular contact with your supply chain and paying bills promptly?
 Are you accessing appropriate business support and financial interventions, rather than moving directly to a restructure?
 Are you considering new opportunities to pivot your business, in the way Barbour has? There are many products, services and skills that can be repurposed for sectors in short supply.
 What leadership position are you taking on health and social care, governance and fake news?
 How do you work with your communities? How can you earn social capital by working with stakeholders to build a better world?

Most businesses will be absorbing the initial shock from COVID-19 right now but come the recovery, purchase loyalty and advocacy will play a significant role in the bounce back.

According to the World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2020, “collaboration between world leaders, businesses and policy-makers is needed more than ever to stop severe threats to our climate, environment, public health and technology systems.”

We all have a personal responsibility to make a difference. What part are you going to play?

Sarah Waddington – Management and PR Consultant, Astute.Work.