Like many of you (dare I say, all?), I woke up once again to the news of mass shootings and violence across the country. At the end of the first quarter, there were 126 incidents of mass shootings, and several more over just the past weekend — from Indianapolis to Kenosha, Wisconsin and Bryan, Texas.
Alongside these senseless shootings, we’re seeing another wave of protests across the country fueled by the continued murders of black and brown men at the hands of police. Protests by social justice advocates and counter-protests by white supremacists groups are likely to increase as the country awaits the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
So, what’s our responsibility as leaders amidst the chaos in the world outside our workplaces?
Acknowledge the impact on ourselves and our employees. Being witness to this level of violence can compound everyday stressors and lead to PTSD symptoms that last for (3) three or more months. This is especially true for Black, Indigenous and People of Color who are overwhelming the victims of gun violence.
Train team leaders and managers to recognize signs of PTSD in employees. We know that managers are not trained and licensed mental health professionals, but we can equip them with the basics. A few signs to watch for —
On-edge and nervous: People may have a high level of fear and anxiety especially upon hearing sounds that are similar to a gunshot, such as a car backfiring or fireworks, or even the bang from something dropping to the ground.
Constantly tired, even when the work loads are balanced: Many people have difficulties sleeping, and wake up in response to small sounds or are having intense nightmares.
Short with friends and colleagues: This may show up as curt or rude behaviors from individuals that are otherwise warm and responsive.
Avoiding social and group interactions: It doesn’t come as a surprise that social support can go a long way in healing. Gently encourage people to stay connected even if they may want to avoid people or isolate.
Make mental health resources easy to access. Remind people to access counseling through their health plans, and make use of their Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Small and mid-sized businesses without EAP programs can offer to reimburse employee purchases of apps such as Calm and Headspace.
Help employees balance work and life. Proactively manage workloads to reduce undue stress, and limit meetings.
Don’t minimize the impact of the world outside. Maybe you’re among the lucky few that remains unaffected by the chaos outside (I’d argue that no one is unaffected). Regardless, don’t brush off the concerns of employees, in particular BIPOC members of your team.
This moment requires us to lean into empathy — starting with genuine curiosity about the lives of people that work alongside us, understanding the needs of others and being aware of their thoughts and feelings.