With many employees mentally struggling in the aftermath of the riots that occurred Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol, organizations are pondering what they should do regarding the event. Bottom line: Company and HR leaders shouldn’t stay silent, experts say.
Here is what HR pundits say organizations should do now.
Say something. Not addressing the events is simply the wrong tactic to take, several industry insiders say. “What we saw in June after the murder of George Floyd was that when leaders were struggling with the words and they were silent because they wanted to get it perfect, their employees took that as being complicit. Similarly, during this time, if a leader doesn’t address it, they will come across as cold and unemotional,” says Jaime Klein, founder and CEO of consulting firm Inspire Human Resources.
Kevin Oakes, CEO of human capital research firm i4cp, says it’s incumbent upon company leaders to “speak up versus remaining silent, and remind the workforce of the company’s purpose and values. Leadership should acknowledge differences, but stress that we all need to keep one thing in mind: respect for each other and working as a team toward our purpose. No team wins when it’s divided; as a team, we need to remain united around the company’s purpose and values.”
Reach out to employees. “People leaders should reach out to every single employee on their teams to let them know they are there to help and to reinforce the services that HR outlines for those needing assistance,” says Mark Stelzner, founder and managing principal at IA and one of HRE’s Top 100 Influencers.
Klein similarly says that leaders should check in—both in team meetings and individually—to ask workers how they are doing and how they can help. “Ask open-ended questions and ask how folks are doing. It’s so hard to find the boundary of what to ask and what not to ask, but just be very human in this moment and check-in and ask how folks are doing. And then try to create a safe space for them to answer that question and help them manage that stress.”
Tout available mental health resources. This week’s events only add to the skyrocketing rates of stress, anxiety and depression that employees are already experiencing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of that, informing employees of the company’s available mental health resources and benefits is a very important—and simple—strategy for HR leaders to embrace. An email reminding employees about resources, including employee assistance programs, crisis management counselors or any available wellbeing apps—as well as how to access them—would be beneficial, experts say.
Give employees time and flexibility for their wellbeing. Don’t expect employees to be as productive in times of crisis. As the aftermath of the riots continues to unfold, insiders suggest giving an allowance of time to watch the news or focus on wellbeing. Stelzner said he sent a message to his team Wednesday that encouraged them to “clear your calendars, as your schedules permit, so you can focus on your wellbeing.” He wrote: “I share your anxiety and want you to focus on yourselves and your loved ones.”
Don’t get political. When talking with employees about the most recent events, Klein suggests that company leaders ask open-ended questions and ask workers how they are doing without bringing up politics. “If the conversation becomes political, really do everything you can to not engage in the content of their opinion, but more how it feels underneath,” she says. “Recognize the emotion underneath what they are saying in terms of, ‘Yes this sounds hard,’ or ‘Yes, this is a complicated time,’ so it’s more about their feelings of what’s happening than what’s actually happening. That’s a more productive role for a leader.”