Strained Leader-Follower Relations During Stressful Times

Before I had secured my internship in the public relations and marketing department at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, the supervisor of the internship program, a digital content manager, was furloughed due to COVID-19. I started to communicate instead with the director of public relations and marketing, and eventually we finalized my internship for the summer. However, shortly before my start date, I was informed that the digital content manager had been rehired on a temporary basis. Although this is good news, it has led to a more strained relationship between the PR director and the digital content manager because of the instability and uncertainty regarding the digital content manager’s job.

During a staff meeting on Monday, the digital content manager repeatedly asked for more work, but the PR director didn’t have much more for her to do. It has a been a challenging time for the PR department in particular as it has had to rework most of its planned content now that the garden is closed and navigate how to continue to engage an audience. Additionally, I have taken over some of the work usually performed by the digital content manager as an unpaid intern. It was obvious that the digital content manager wanted an opportunity to prove her worth to Lewis Ginter and hopefully extend her current contract past its June 15th end date. However, the staff meeting ended without a clear answer from the PR director.

On Wednesday during my weekly one-on-one meeting with the digital content manager, she told me a little bit more about how her relationship with the PR director has changed since she was rehired. Before COVID-19, the digital content manager was quick to share her own ideas and opinions about the content that Lewis Ginter was publishing on its various social media accounts. Often, the digital content manager and the PR director have different visions. However, now that the future of her job is not clear, the digital content manager explained to me that she is more hesitant to disagree with the PR director. This is unfortunate because based on my conversations with the digital content manager, she has a lot of innovative ideas and sage reflections on the success of the social media content that has been published since the garden has been closed.

This is a difficult situation for all parties. Although the digital content manager is working in uncertain conditions, it is likely that the PR director also doesn’t know exactly what is going on. Additionally, the PR director probably doesn’t have complete control over whether the digital content manager is rehired. However, the uncertainty has stifled the usual conversations between the PR director and the digital content manager, which has the potential to distract from their overall goal: to create quality content for the members and guests of Lewis Ginter while the garden is closed.

In my opinion, if the PR director and the digital content manager spoke to each other with more honesty and transparency, their relationships would improve and so would the work both of them are producing. Although it may be uncomfortable for each of them, I think it would be beneficial for the PR director to be as candid as she is able to be with the digital content manager about the status of her job. I also think it would be helpful for the PR director to try to redistribute some of the work so that everyone feels valuable during this time. Finally, I think that the digital content manager should do her best to tactfully and respectfully voice her own opinions about the social media content, even when it differs from the PR director’s. If said in the right way, I think that would be another way for her to solidify her value to Lewis Ginter.