Company Culture

Still haven’t talked to your team about the Capitol insurrection? Here’s how to start

"As a leader, you want your people to understand that there is hope," advises Alignstaffing's Aaron Copeland.

Aaron Copeland, CEO and founder of Alignstaffing. (Courtesy photo)
This is a guest post by Aaron Copeland, CEO and founder of D.C.-based Alignstaffing.

Our headquarters are centered just steps away from Wednesday’s insurrection. Thankfully, my team is OK, and we were able to connect virtually on Thursday morning.

This event was very personal. Feelings are raw as it involves politics. But as a leader, you want your people to understand that there is hope. That tomorrow is going to be better than today. As I met with my team, I offered space for deeper conversations.

As the CEO of a company of both minorities and majorities, we all experience this trauma differently. Incidents like these further can demonstrate how different we are.

But we must appreciate our differences, knowing that we will see the same thing unfold, but we will all have different interpretations. Leaders must be open, and not judge our perceptions.

Make no mistake: Minorities see the public’s language change in response to different events. The language is dismissive of a group’s underlying issues with the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, or Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, versus the language of praise, normalcy, or individual attributes when referring to bombing, separating kids from parents at the border, or the Tea Party revolution.

It’s important to acknowledge the difference. But, we must wing it afterward, and be open to the communication that may follow.

As a leader of a company, you should be open. Ask questions instead of offering answers. Focus on our commonalities. Know your own limitations, know your bias. Be present. Just be there.

Respect your employees to go through their healing process. You can’t do it for them. Give your people space to process, and refer them to your Employee Assistance Program.

Every leader must approach this situation differently. The way you can communicate depends on your culture, and how you’ve interacted in the past with your staff. I encourage every leader to focus on connecting on core foundations as what it means to be a citizen, and a part of our community. You must confirm that we’re still here as a company, as a community, we share that we are experiencing history together, we are confused together, and we are figuring out answers together.

People: Aaron Copeland
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