On Tuesday afternoon, the verdict came in.
When former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin found guilty on three charges, including second and third-degree murder, in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd, it was an important moment for the country. So it’s fitting that the evening that followed the announcement featured collective gatherings in the streets, and statements from leaders like the mayor on the local level, on up to and including President Joe Biden.
The next day means getting back to work for many. Yet a new day doesn’t mean the moment has passed. And, as many of the statements from leaders pointed out, it doesn’t mean the work for racial justice is by any means complete. So even as work tied to employment goes on, managers and teammates are bringing their sentiments about the conviction to this day, and beyond.
We’ve seen local leaders addressing it with their communities through newsletter messages, for instance. Impact Hub Baltimore, the Station North hub for social entrepreneurs, artists and change makers, shared an email message to its community from Executive Director Michelle Geiss.
“Our team and our community held our breath throughout the trial of Derek Chauvin,” it said. “Yesterday, we exhaled a sigh of relief that our legal system held this officer accountable for the murder of George Floyd. And yet, we understand that this verdict does not equate to justice. It does not restore the lives of countless Black Americans killed by state-sanctioned violence. It does not relieve the daily injustices inflicted upon Black and brown citizens by a racist system. It does not change the fact that Baltimore’s police budget massively outstrips our investments in community wellbeing, and is the highest police budget per capita in the country.”
It also offered resources, such as a reminder that tonight, the city is hosting Taxpayers’ Night, allowing residents to offer testimony directly to leaders on the next City budget.
When it comes to addressing the verdict internally, a post on LinkedIn this morning caught our eye from Joey Price, CEO of Jumpstart:HR, a human resources firm which serves startups and small businesses. Here’s what it said:
Showing up for work today whether in person or via email/Zoom/Teams will be difficult for your Black co-workers today.
If you don’t know what to say, a simple “How are you feeling?” will do. Also, as a supervisor, empathize that today – this week – might be one of those moments where output is lower but the intangible tension of being Black in America is high. You’ll show you care not by your words but by your actions to embrace colleagues who sit in this space.
If you don’t know what to say, don’t say too much. This is the time to listen and give space for healing, not fill the void with words.
Your Friendly African American HR Pro who wants to see you win at work and with your team.
Following up, we asked Price for a bit more detail on the guidance he would offer to organizational leaders. After all, each employee will have their own response and be affected in a different way. And the reality is that, after a year of pandemic, protests, election and insurrection, leaders will likely know where their colleagues stand.
Still, it’s not a time to let this moment pass.
“Team leaders and colleagues should feel comfortable addressing the verdict at work because it represents an opportunity to have helpful dialogue about a meaningful topic and give colleagues an outlet to share thoughts, feelings, or emotions that they may otherwise bottle and internalize,” Price said.
To start down the path of addressing it in a productive way, Price recommends assessing with the team what the needs are: “Do they need to ‘hear it from the top,’ and have a company-wide statement, or are they more in need of discussing at the level of their direct boss and team?
As he pointed out, the act of allowing for a dialogue and listening are responses in and of themselves, just as much as saying something is.
“Keep in mind that no organization or leader should feel like it’s their responsibility to provide answers and resolution,” he said. “What’s most important is to provide space for healthy discussion and empathy. If conversation about this topic bubbles up confrontation and resentment for team members with opposing views, then it’s likely that deeper work is needed within your team to build a better, healthy workplace culture.”
Teams reflect the societies they’re in. The work that feels external can shape a workplace, as well.
For more on this topic, check out Technical.ly’s Racial Equity Month coverage from June 2020.
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