Fear. Anxiety. Insecurity. Loneliness. Concern. Stress. These Words – These Feelings – Put Me in a Cold Sweat.

By Alex Yastrebenetsky posted 05-06-2020 01:14 PM

Fear. Anxiety. Insecurity. Loneliness. Concern. Stress.

Wow. These words—these feelings—put me in a cold sweat.

Under normal circumstances, we, as human beings, experience most of these things on a daily basis (at varying degrees, of course). Those who say that they don’t… lie about other things too.

In these unprecedented times, there is no shortage of bad news. Sadly, though, if you work at or run a global organization, many of these fears unfortunately materialize in stories you hear from people around you. For my family, personally:

  • We have multiple family friends who lost their loved ones overseas and could not travel back to say their last goodbyes.
  • I have a mentor whose 19-year-old grandson fell sick on a church mission and is in the ICU in a foreign, third-world country.
  • We’ve had friends cancel their weddings.
  • We’ve had friends who had their baby shower in isolation.
These are all true stories of suffering from people around me who I care deeply about. We all have these stories.

These feelings are all too real, and to not empathize is simply wrong.

I am not a psychologist, nor am I qualified to write about human psychology. But I do want to address two things.

  1. My recommendation to analytics industry professionals who are fearful for their jobs right now. As I am writing this article, there are reports that show that 65% of advertising professionals fear layoffs from pandemic.
  2. My recommendations to CEOs and senior leaders of organizations.
What makes me qualified to address this right now is my experience in trying to understand human behavior and human needs in an effort to design and build a place I am not ashamed to call the “best place to work.” In 10 years of InfoTrust’s existence, we’ve been named to Inc. Magazine’s list of best workplaces nationwide twice, Ad Age’s Best Places to Work three times, and Fortune Magazine’s 50 Best Small & Medium Workplaces in 2019.

I promise not to share theoretical or hypothetical recommendations. We are going to go gestalt all the way, and I will only share my personal experiences. I am not in your situation, nor do I know what is right for you today—but I hope that you will find my experience helpful.
My proposed solution for overcoming the aforementioned feelings currently being experienced by you and your organization come down to 3 fundamental things:

  1. Focusing on controlling what you can control.
  2. Shifting your focus from your problems or fears to a higher purpose.
  3. Surrounding yourself with people you can learn from.

Focusing on Controlling what You Can Control

For many organizations in the analytics and technology space, the No. 1 thing that can be controlled now is job security. While InfoTrust certainly has its share of cash flow issues due to COVID-19, we made a decision to launch a No-Layoff Pledge through July 1, 2020; we also plan on extending this pledge in 3-month increments for the duration of the year. This is one thing we can control, and it removes some of the most fundamental fears, especially in families living on a single income. With 20% unemployment in the U.S. right now, that's 1 out of 5 people impacted.

We can control our organizational transparency. From day one of this crisis, we transparently shared with the team what we will be doing as the worst-case scenario (if it comes to that); we shared that our solution will be implementing needs-based pay with the promise that we will make every person whole as quickly as possible.

Higher Purpose

During a global crisis, it is my moral responsibility as a leader to be able to look my children in the eyes and say that I did everything that I could—that we did everything that we could as an organization—to help others. InfoTrust always holds community service initiatives, but this time we really took it to the next level. We have numerous initiatives going on at the same time, and I told the team that for the duration of the crisis, as soon as we finish one initiative, we are going to launch something else. We can live in a “Groundhog Day” scenario, paralyzed by our fears, or we can selflessly serve others and become free.

Surround Yourself with People You Can Learn From

I am a huge fan of peer support groups where you can meet people with similar or different experiences from different industries. I am currently in three different groups, because you never know when you are going to need somebody’s advice or a connection.

Apply These Experiences to Your Life

If you are an employee of an agency, and you are sincerely concerned about your job security, there are 3 things you do:

1. Retool.

We launched an extensive list of different professional resources for digital advertising and analytics professionals. The market is very competitive right now; use this opportunity to upgrade your skill set. You can also use your newfound expertise, especially if you get certified, to do more valuable stuff at your current job. Considering the current economy, you may not be able to get a raise just yet, but you may be able to get a promotion and raise your responsibilities and higher pay will follow.

2. Shift your focus from your fears to contribution.

Find something you are really passionate about and identify an opportunity to use your professional skills to support this cause. We put together a list of ideas to get you started. Now that everybody is working from home, your physical location doesn’t really matter; you can find a non-profit or a group of people on the other side of the world that is solving a problem that you really care about, and you can use your time, passion, and professional expertise to contribute. Contribution brings gratitude and gratitude eliminates fear. You cannot be grateful and fearful at the same time; that’s just not how we’re wired as human beings.

3. Realize that you are not alone.

If you are already a DAA member, connect with other like-minded people within the association. If not, now is a great time to become a part of your professional association. Participate in events. You can build your network even without leaving your home. Just be careful who you are spending time with; you want to be with people that are supporting each other and growing together.

To CEOs and Organizational Leaders:

I am not going to bore you with leadership advice: you can read the Harvard Business Review and other incredible resources for that. Instead, here are some very practical tidbits from my own experience:

1.) If you are the owner of your business, I encourage you to consider our No-Layoff Pledge. I recognize that some companies have been hit harder than others, but also know that digital marketing is here to stay. It’s never about resources; it is always about resourcefulness.
2.) Even if you are forced to execute layoffs, I encourage you to find a way to bring a higher purpose to your organization. Work cannot only be about clocking in, doing work, and clocking out. Numerous studies show that the best companies that succeeded (by all traditional measures over the last couple of recessions), have found a way to identify a higher purpose within the organization. They then associate the success of the organization with the ability to do more, serve more, and take care of others. A life well lived is a life spent taking care of those who cannot give you anything back in return. You may not be in a position to donate money, but donate time, donate energy, and donate passion as an organization. Find a way to do some pro bono work for organizations that are severely-impacted by COVID-19. I am not talking about doing a little community service project; I am talking about finding out what’s important to the team and committing to it at such a high level that you are forced to push yourself as an organization to “make good” on this promise. You and your team will find the answer, and this answer will not only bring higher satisfaction, but will unleash more creativity, more energy, and more problem-solving.

3.) No matter what your role is—CEO, president, CMO, etc.— there are numerous roundtables and support groups for people in your position from different industries. A lot of these groups are free or very inexpensive. If you are concerned about the competitive nature of such groups, in many organizations, they check that each professional has no competitive conflict with other members of the roundtable. These roundtables will not replace your professional advisors such as lawyers, CPAs, HR professionals. Additionally, there is support available through DAA membership. The Association offers many ways to engage with other professionals including chapter gatherings, educational sessions, and volunteer opportunities to strengthen the community.

If you found this helpful, connect with me on LinkedIn or drop me an email at


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