We’re starting to see herd behavior around social distancing measures, and it’s pretty powerful. The more people do it, the easier it for everyone to do it. But TPM Reader JA has a good point that it starts at the top*:
Kudos to TPM for keeping folks out of the office. I am thinking this morning about why leadership from on high is so important relative to COVID-19 and social distancing, and that’s because half measures aren’t good enough in themselves, and because for me half measures lead to quarter measures.
There are substantial consequences for employees or students that decide to socially distance themselves on their own. For example, my boss’s boss asked me to come to a meeting today to plan for public meetings in March and April. For me to skip that meeting and the subsequent public, well-attended meetings means taking myself away from management of an important project and signaling to the person that holds my professional fate in his hands that I’m unreliable. (And for others, of course, the consequences are much more significant: loss of job.) So I need my boss’s boss and those running the public meetings we’re preparing for to make social distancing choices; I will have a hard time choosing to sequester myself on my own.
Similarly, as long as the public schools are in session my high school kid will keep attending. Similarly, it would be extremely challenging to tell my daughter that she can’t attend club soccer if it’s ongoing. In all these cases the leaders need to choose social distancing so that the rest of us can comply without dramatic consequences.
And these choices are tied together. As long as my son has to attend school, is there any reason to skip gatherings with friends? As long as my daughter is in close quarters with teammates, is there any reason for her to skip school? As long as my kids are going to school and I’m going to work is there any reason for my wife to figure out remote teaching?
The lack of leadership leads to half measures. The half measures lead to quarter measures. Without that leadership from the top of all our respective organizations we’re not going to slow down COVID-19.
*I’ve edited the email to remove some personally identifiable details.