How to Support Your Employees When Terrible Things Are Happening in the World
Showing a little humanity in the workplace can go a long way.
It’s been a hard week. A hard month. A hard two years. And as a manager of a large and diverse team, I’ve felt this acutely, especially this week.
Over the last two weeks, I’ve tried to support my team through the news of three horrific mass shootings, the Walmart commercialization of Juneteenth, misogynist and/or homophobic legislation, the anniversary of the murder of George Floyd, some very difficult staffing situations, and a meeting that triggered a lot of historical trauma for those in attendance.
My team is made up of strong, smart, dedicated professionals but even the strongest person has their breaking point. For many people, this week was it.
People are at the breaking point, and the people we work with are no exception. As managers, we have a responsibility to ensure that our work is done. I get that. I think we all do.
Unfortunately, work can’t stop because the world is a horror show. But sometimes, that horror show is going to spill over into the work environment, and that’s OK. I also strongly believe that managers have an obligation to support their employees, and sometimes, that means supporting them in things that have nothing to do with work.
Sometimes, that means giving them time and space to grieve.
Here are some things you can do to help support your team during difficult times.
Acknowledge what’s happening.
Don’t just pretend like everything is fine because it’s not. Don’t let something horrible happen without saying a word. Send an email recognizing whatever happened, or make some space in your meetings to acknowledge events. This isn’t the time to look at the bright side of life. Things are bad, and we need to acknowledge that. But be sure that you talk about events in a sensitive and trauma-informed way, so you are not adding to people’s pain.