Chelsey Caldwell
June 13, 2022

In the wake of tragedy: Leading candid conversations in the workplace

Uncertainty, fear, and discomfort. Oftentimes, leaders will feel one or all of these emotions when another event has happened in the world that impacts the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of their employees. As a country, we are still navigating the effects of a global pandemic, while being faced with increased acts of violence and tragedy day after day, and one thing is quite is not business as usual. Yet, many business leaders still choose silence in the wake of tragedy, feigning normalcy or lacking the confidence to address it.

Over the last two years, employees have been urging company leaders to be more transparent about their stance on social issues. In fact, 60% of people said that when considering a job, they expect the CEOs to speak out publicly about controversial social and political issues that the prospective employee cares about, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Silence is loud and can be misconstrued as "indifference." We encourage business leaders to speak up on systemic injustice, economic inequality, and other tragic events in order to lead inclusively and demonstrate their commitment to DEI in the workplace.

Since these conversations can be difficult to navigate, we’ve listed 4 key considerations for business leaders when addressing sensitive topics of racial violence, inequity, and mental health in the workplace.

Acknowledge the event.

When tragic incidents arise, leaders need to allow themselves to be vulnerable in these moments, speaking from the heart with empathy, transparency, and intentional language.

For example, the May 2022 shooting in Buffalo, NY was not an "unfortunate accident,” it was a violent act of domestic terrorism and white supremacy. Acknowledging the incident for what it is allows leadership to denounce the murders, and discuss support for employees and the company's future actions. Most importantly, it disrupts the "business as usual" narrative. A traumatic event occurred and that impacts employees, especially employees of color.

Make room for employees' voices.

Company leaders must create a space for open dialogue where historically underrepresented employees are able to share how this event is impacting them, their families, and their community. This may look like the People Team partnering with an internal ERG to host a listening session for employees to have an opportunity to grieve, share their feelings, and learn more about available resources.

One conversation isn’t enough. Use regular All Hands meetings or even 1:1s to check in on employees’ mental health, bandwidth, and need for support in their role.

Identify available support.

Tragic events such as the recent mass shootings in the U.S are emotionally taxing and traumatic. Providing employees with access to emotional support resources is critical. This may look like:

  • Reminding employees about health benefits, such as mental health coverage or mental health days.
  • Encouraging employees to take the space they need to step away from work if they're feeling overwhelmed or want to participate in local civil rights activities.
  • Providing access to therapy services and trauma-informed self-care resources (i.e. therapy reimbursement, network recommendations, wellness funds, etc.)

Acknowledge company-wide DEI efforts.

Demonstrate and reaffirm your organization is committed to nurturing an inclusive and equitable workplace by engaging in ongoing dialogue, taking intentional action, and maintaining transparent accountability with the understanding that this is a long-term investment and not a one-off conversation. Share upcoming efforts that are part of this commitment.

For example, if your organization is committed to mitigating unconscious bias in the workplace, intentional DEI efforts may look like:

  • Bringing in a guest speaker to lead a company-wide workshop educating team members about inclusive workplace practices.
  • Partnering with corporate communications to create an inclusive language guide for the organization.
  • Implementing formal policies and reporting processes to address microaggressions in the workplace.

Watch our LinkedIn Live Show where the Perfeqta Team discusses workplace DEI trends that are impacting employee engagement, recruitment, and the experiences of historically-excluded groups worldwide.

Are you ready to build a long-term DEI strategy to help nurture an inclusive workplace and support diverse talent? Perfeqta is here to help.  

Through programming, consistent listening sessions, and an action-driven roadmap, Perfeqta has worked with dozens of organizations that have transformed their company cultures into workplaces where all employees feel seen, heard, and safe.

Here’s what our DEI strategic consulting services provide:

  • A 3-year Strategic DEI Roadmap with prioritized initiatives
  • A DEI Communications & Engagement Strategy
  • Quarterly DEI trainings to educate employees and nurture inclusive behaviors
  • Support establishing or refining a DEI Governance Structure
  • A personal DEI practitioner partnering to support the creation and implementation of the organization’s DEI roadmap
  • A DEI & Employee Experience Discovery Audit for current state analysis  

If you’re interested in working with Perfeqta for a long-term DEI strategic plan, get in touch with our team here.

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