3 ways companies and leaders can respond to tragedies

In less than a week our country has seen 2 people killed because of their race, 11 people killed because of their faith, and numerous people threatened because of their political beliefs. The sadness, fear, hurt, and anger goes beyond those directly affected by the violence as it impacts whole groups of people and communities.

Since we spend most of our waking hours at work the idea that we can keep work and everything else separate is a fallacy. The goal isn’t to keep them separate but to acknowledge that we’re whole human beings impacted by tragedy. Whether or not you overhear people talking about recent tragedies know that some people in your company are viscerally impacted. They are angry, frightened, and sad.

Companies and leaders are hesitant to discuss politics at work for fear of upsetting and alienating staff and customers. However not acknowledging what has happened and the impact on your employees has a more damaging effect. How do you as a leader or manager acknowledge recent events without “getting political”? Focus on the facts and the possible reactions from people.

  1. Acknowledge what happened.
  2. Acknowledge the range of emotions (e.g. fear, sadness, anger) that people may be feeling.
  3. Validate their feelings.

Here’s what I sent to my team this morning:

Good morning all,

It’s been another painful week in our country with the murders of 2 black people in a grocery store, mailed pipe bombs, and murders of 11 people in a synagogue. This weekend I paused and let myself feel the deep sadness. We all have our own reactions and cope in our own ways. I’m encouraging you to give yourself what you need.

Everyday you support people navigating the complexities of life, relationships, and ongoing trauma. The work that you do is not easy. I’m thankful to you and I know that our clients are as well. If you need or want to check-in please reach out to me, Andrea, or Cassandra. Be well and kind to yourself.

While some people may come into the office this morning celebrating (or commiserating) the wins of the Eagles and Red Sox. Others will be numb, sad, or angry. As leaders and managers you have an obligation to acknowledge that current events impact employees.

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